Monday, March 12, 2012

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday: The Runaway Princess, by Kate Coombs

The blogging fates are conspiring to get me writing more posts. Just when I decided I was going to try participating in MMGM, thinking maybe I'd manage once a month (I'm sorry, the alliteration just happens, I have nothing to do with it!), I read a whole slew of really good middle-grade books that need blog posts. So, two MMGMs in a row. Don't get used to it, folks, it won't last!

The Runaway Princess is much more than I thought it would be from the title and the cover. It's clever, cute and funny and has a hilariously complicated plot. I was hooked from the first page of the Prologue, when Princess Meg's mother tries to tell her a bedtime story but keeps getting interrupted:
"The princess stood at her window," the queen said . . . "longing for someone to come and save her, for the evil enchanter had bound her by his magic."
"Why didn't she break the spell?"
"She couldn't," Queen Istilda said gently. "Margaret, don't pick your nose."
Meg dropped her hand to the lap of her white satin nightgown. "Then what happened?"
"A handsome prince rode up to the castle gates."
"What did his horse look like?" 
(I love that last line!) Six year old Meg doesn't get why princesses can't rescue themselves. When she grows up and her father decides to have a contest for her hand in marriage, Meg decides she wants no part of it. In fact:
"Don't you see?" Meg asked, suddenly inspired. "We must save them."
"Save who?"
"The dragon. The witch. The bandits. We must save them from the evil princes." 

So we're set up for the ever-popular fairy-tale turned upside-down. But again, Runaway Princess is more than it appears. I loved irrepressible Meg and her loyal friends, Cam the gardener's boy and Dilly the maid. I loved reluctant Nort. In fact, I loved all the characters in this book, villains and parents and bumblers and schemers all. They are all real people who pick their noses and whine and keep secrets and make unwise decisions. That's what I liked so much about this book: it's a fairy-tale send-up, but it's got the gritty texture of reality. And it isn't the least bit predictable. Plus it's really, really funny, in both overt, slapstick-y ways and subtle, might-miss-it-if-you-blink ways (like the line about the horse). You get a lot of bang for your buck with this one. I want to get my hands on the sequel now, The Runaway Dragon.

The Runaway Princess reminds me of the breakfast sandwich I had at this little place in Seattle: it looked like your typical ham 'n egg 'n cheese sandwich, but when I bit into it I had never tasted anything so entirely delicious, each flavour deep and authentic and all the components mingling to create something greater than the sum of the parts. (I need to go back to Seattle and have another one!)

Oh, and don't forget to go to Shannon Messenger's blog (every Monday) to find lots of other marvelous middle-grade books!


  1. Hi Kim and a belated welcome to MMGM (I must have been on my extended blogging break when you joined the fun!).

    Love your blog's title! So funny. Me too.

    Gosh, I've never even heard of this book, and I work in a bookstore! Sounds hilarious. I love fairy tale send-ups. Thanks!

    1. Blogger is being a bugger for me and I can't get the normal comment box to show up, so I'll just reply to Joanne (hi, Joanne. *waves*).

      Anyway, Kim, I haven't heard of this one either, and you make it sound absolutely delightful!

    2. I have the same problem with the reply box so I'M just going to reply to BARBARA.

      Anyway, YAY! I know, this book needs to be way more known! It really does give the appearance of "oh, just another Princess-saves-herself twist book" except that it's practically a twist ON princess-saves-herself twist books, it's so fresh and delightful within it. And I have to disclose that after I read it I contacted Kate Coombs about how much I enjoyed it and now we're Internet Friends, so NOW I see this and say "Yay! Kate's book!" even though I actually read it and loved it BEFORE we were friends, but now I'm even more excited when people find it because "YAY! Kate's book!" Also, I MIGHT have loved Runaway Dragon EVEN MORE.

  2. Hi Joanne, Hi Barbara, thanks for the welcome to the MMGM fold. This book is definitely worth looking for. I think the cover does it a disservice, actually. I wouldn't have picked it up if I hadn't been following Kate Coombs' blog already. (I can't claim to be friends with her, but I like her voice and her taste in books!)

    @rockinlibrarian: Okay, I'm going out to find Runaway Dragon now!

  3. welcome to MMGM! and wow, what a fun book! the dialogue you jotted down is hilarious :)

    1. Hi Gina! You have a great blog. It looks like you and I have very similar taste in books.

      The whole book is that funny--you have to read it.