I usually refuse on principle to read books created in conjunction with the release of coordinated toys like the Ever After High dolls in the Barbie/Monster High aisles of stores. Due to the fact that this particular series is authored by Shannon Hale (of Princess Academy, The Goose Girl and Rapunzel’s Revenge fame) made me suspend that pet peeve of mine and I am glad I did.
The Storybook of Legends circles around Raven Queen (daughter of the Evil Queen in Snow White) and Apple White (daughter of Snow White). They are both students at Ever After High (along with a myriad of other storybook characters like Cerise Hood, Briar Beauty, Madeleine Hatter, Daring Charming, etc.) and in this, their second year, they will sign the Storybook of Legends and commit themselves to reliving the fairy tales of their parents as those same characters. Raven isn’t sure she wants to sign off on becoming the Evil Queen. As the day draws nearer she continues to alternately question and grieve the fact that she has no say in her own future. Apple White is looking forward to the opportunity to officially commit to the storyline she knows she was born to play out.
Milton Grimm, the Headmaster, clearly indicates that anyone who does NOT sign the Book will immediately poof! out of existence along with any other characters from that story. Apple observes Raven’s reluctance to commit to her destiny and is terrified of losing her own Happily Ever After because Raven decided she doesn’t want to be evil.
As expected, the story follows Raven’s journey through Milton Grimm’s increasingly suspicious predictions of doom and her own frustration at having no say in her own future. What I did NOT expect was the depth of the characters. One might expect Apple White’s character to go the direction of Galinda in the Broadway adaptation of Wicked (superficial, snotty ,”mean girl”). And she does seem so at first. The difference is that both Raven and Apple have aspects of their personalities that are likeable, touching and genuine. Both Apple’s and Raven’s fear are palpable and reasonable and address both the fairy tale objectives of the plot AND the true nature of friendships, hopes and disappointments of growing up.
The biggest treat is really the character of Madeleine Hatter (daughter of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter). She is kind and funny and delightfully silly with a hidden wisdom in her contributions. This book also does NOT suffer from the overly wordy descriptions that weaken both The Princess Academy and The Goose Girl. The plot moves quickly to a wonderful crescendo, concluding in a way that satisfies the reader and still leaves her awaiting the storyline of the next book. It may not have as much appeal to younger male readers but this is a perfect independent reading choice for young girls almost to and just beginning the “tweens.” It offers strong female role models for young girls as well as a good story.