Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Princess Academy

Confession: I would NEVER have picked this book up had it not been for the Newbery Honor Award. I'm not a big reader of "princess" books because they are usually too fluffy and predictable. However, after reading a plethora of favorable reviews I decided that I would give it a try. (But at the earliest mention of a dashing young prince or a wicked stepmother I was moving on! Take that, delicate, pink princess book!) Shamefully, my preconceived notions couldn't have been more wrong. After reading the first page I immediately knew this was no Disney fairy tale.

The story takes place on the slopes of Mount Eskel, where the majority of the residents work in the stone quarry. Miri, a fiesty, yet incredibly tiny girl is the main character who aches to work alongside her father and sister in the quarry. She lives a happy, if unexciting, life until word comes from the lowlanders that the prince will choose a princess from Mount Eskel. You can imagine the hullaballoo that ensues. (Don't you love that word--hullaballoo? I need to find more ways to use it.) Here lies the problem: Prince Steffan will not choose a bride without her going through a rigorous training in lowlander life. A special academy is set up on the other side of the mountain for all eligible girls to attend. Unlike The Princess Diaries (which I admit to watching on more than one occasion), the Academy is nothing like Julie Andrews' crash-course in princess etiquette. On the contrary, the girls are isolated from the outside world and deprived of visiting their families, are humiliated daily by Tutor Olana, and face a myriad of dangerous situations, such as a group of bandits who invade the Academy. Doesn't sound like your average glass slipper--talking mirror--evil spell casting fairy tale, now does it? In addition to her bravery and quiet intelligence, Miri discovers an unspoken, language called "quarry-speech" that allows her to lead the other girls out of danger and prove herself as a true heroine, despite her small size.
This book will appeal to tomboys, girly-girls, wannabe princesses, princess-despisers and even dare I say it...boys! Yes, it's that good. Go ahead and read it--I promise no one will call you a sissy.

Recipe to Read By: Biscuits with Honey
Honey is a rare treat on the Slopes of Mount Eskel, and Miri often fantasized about hot biscuits drizzled with the sweet amber liquid on bleak winter evenings.
These easy-peasy biscuits are delicious in any weather or at any altitude.

2 1/4 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup milk

1. Combine and mix ingredients together.
2. Pour out on floured waxed paper. Pat the dough out with your hands until dough is not sticky (add a little flour if necessary). Fold double.
3. Cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter.
4. Bake on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 20-25 minutes.
5. Drizzle with honey
6. Drizzling won't give you nearly enough honey, so pour the rest of the honey jar into a bowl and plunge your biscuit into it. This will make a sticky mess, but that's okay. You're not trying to marry a prince, are you?

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