Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot, Book 1

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Uproarious princess adventure is clever, sarcastic, zany.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Has the classic elements of a princess story but spoofs the princess tale genre. Set in medieval times, it references plagues.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about having a sense of humor in a crisis; the importance of self-reliance and resourcefulness; questioning gender roles and fairy tales.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ezra and Lavender are sisters who care about each other immensely despite their differences. Granny looks after the girls with care and concern.

Violence & Scariness

Deaths, maimings, plagues, illnesses, dragons, battles, and the like are referenced frequently throughout the book but with humor and a cartoonish depiction of violence. The girls' parents are said to be killed; Grandpa disappeared one day and was never heard from again; a dragon-filled forest is littered with the bones of the previously eaten.

Language

Insulting language, such as "idiot."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot, Book 1 is a quippy, clever take on princess fare that entertains while simultaneously unpacking the tropes of the genre. Sisters Ezra and Lavendar represent two sides of the princess coin: Ezra wants to slay dragons; Lavendar wants to be rescued from one by a prince. The book is set in medieval times and makes frequent reference to battles, sword fights, plagues, and untimely deaths, but all are presented with a tongue-in-cheek humor that keeps up the suspense without feeling morbid. A book that will please both princess lovers and their skeptics.

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What's the story?

Lavendar dreams all day of being a princess, while sister Ezra is much more practical, doing chores and taking care of her goat, Gertrude. But when Lavendar gets kidnapped by an evil villain named Clive, who's desperate for the ransom money and thinks she's a real princess, chaos and hilarity ensue as Lavendar tries to perfect the role, Ezra tries to save her, and Clive tries to pull off his kidnapping plan while doing as little actual kidnapping as possible. 

Is it any good?

BUCKLE AND SQUASH: THE PERILOUS PRINCESS PLOT both challenges readers' assumptions about princess books and spoofs the genre. It covers every aspect of a classic princess story with its tale of adventure, kidnapping, dragon-slaying, and rescue, while simultaneously pointing out the utter silliness of such tales every step of the way.

Author Sarah Courtauld's writing is so vivid, fresh, and self-conscious that there are just as many word jokes scattered about as there are clever twists and turns. And though there's no shortage of references to death and plagues, they're made with an absurdity and slapstick that never feels gruesome or violent, much less sad. Devoted readers of princess fare will find the genre elevated here, and newcomers to reading or the genre will find it difficult to match this level of writing and engagement.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about princess books. Why are they so popular?

  • How is Buckle and Squash different from other princess books you've read?

  • How does the book challenge your assumptions about what it's like to be a princess?

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