In this bid to reshape fantasy archetypes Marvel comic author Greg Pak teams with a talented illustrator Takeshi Miyazawa, who also works for that company, to deliver The Princess Who Saved Herself. The picture book in comic format recasts the image of the ancient concept of royal maiden. Even to say that is like casting Disney’s Princess Jasmine as a love-struck teenager. The words fail to capture the full significance of what is at work beneath this tale.
Pak and Miyazawa turn out a main character who, as promised, is chocked full of bravery, determination and compassion. The author’s erratic rhyme pattern and Miyazawa’s drawings combine to offer adults a comic that can be handled like most read-aloud texts. The plot will entertain most youngsters below the third grade. They will either delight in a tale about princesses and wild creatures or a little girl and her nemesis in heavy metal music.
Research into the publisher, KaBOOM!, a division of Boom Entertainment, showed this fantasy title is one of many efforts to shift the paradigm of fairy tales. The story shares title and is reportedly based on a song by Jonathan Coulter, which I never heard. As readers will see from the credits, the striking presentation is the result of a huge staff. The KaBOOM! collection also includes the Adventure Time and Mega Princess graphic novel series. Still, whether as a comic book for an early reader or a picture book for a child who does not, from the title to the last page, The Princess Who Saved Herself , shouts its differences.
The main character sets the pace. Any princess who spends days with a pet snake, at tea parties with cake, then plays loud rock ‘n’ roll off key, shows off a personality that will gain readers attention for its unpredictability. This child is no Cinderella. In line with the 21st century reality, she is a six- or seven-year-old rebel in a world of no boundaries.
“There wasn’t anybody there to tell her what to do,” Pak writes. “So she did what she wanted to.” She played a red guitar loud and out of tune. I was not certain whether readers were meant to find that annoying or a sign of defiance. It was hard to figure whether the character was spoiled or self-absorbed. Even when an older, more experienced, guitarist described as, “the wicked queen,” tries to get her to stop. Some readers might be put off by an initial negative impression, but the character develops as she applies her superpower – love.
This is not a spoiler. There are a number of twists and turns in the story, which I conceded younger minds than mine might enjoy. The queen sends a giant bee and a dragon to stop her little nemesis. Both are defeated by the princess’s open heart. After a couple more plot twists, her loving behavior ropes in the queen, too.
The aspects of the story that did not work for me failed because the author appeared to press too far against traditions with no seeming cause. Readers will grasp from page one this not grandma and grandpa’s concept of young royalty.
Number one is the princess’s name – Gloria Cheng EpsteinTakahara de la Garza Champion. I can see the average adult reading that over and over to an attentive, but confused child. Readers will likely go at it at least six times before they say, “Let’s just call her Gloria.” I considered the author might have wanted to convey some sense of multiculturalism with such a bird’s nest of a name. The effect is overkill. Most children will not recall the full name by the book’s final page.
Number two – the story takes a lot of leaps. Readers might find themselves saying, “What?” There are several places where the plot does not have smooth transitions in its development. For example, one moment the dragon cries, then sneezes and sets loose an inferno that burns down the kingdom. Readers might find themselves jarred by the omissions or unexplained shifts in action. Listeners might not notice.
Overall, The Princess Who Saved Herself is worth a read as a comic or picture book. The text will stir the imagination for adults who enjoy fresh characters. The princess and the wicked queen endear themselves and show depth. The plot will hold a child’s attention, and ends with a very personal touch that might make the story a bedtime favorite.
|Publication Date: May 18, 2021|