A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unlocking the Spell is the second book in the Wide-Awake Princess series, a continuation in the alternative fairy tale saga with a focus on skill building, kindness, and autonomy rather than being the fairest of them all. Though much is made of the beauty of princesses, and some even use their looks to gain entrance or power over others, the book asks readers to consider the experience of such female characters as compared to those valued for other traits.
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What's the story?
Princess Annie may have saved the day by finding her sister Gwendolyn's true love, Prince Beldegard, but now she must help him turn back from a bear into a prince so the two can marry. The trouble is, they have to track down a nasty old dwarf who cast the spell, and he hasn't been seen around these parts in weeks. Once again, Annie must travel far and wide and keep her wits about her to break the curse or else help Gwennie fend off suitors for the rest of her life.
Is it any good?
In this second book in the series, Princess Annie again takes the lead to keep challenging assumptions about gender, beauty, and love, while clever side plots feature old fairy and folk tales. The book is especially clever in working through the pros and cons of being born beautiful (or being helped to become beautiful) versus living in the world as an ordinary person who must work at skill building. In the end, readers will see it's not necessarily better to be blessed with good looks; beauty isn't exactly an easy ride, either.
Also instructive are the book's romantic relationships, which feature respect, admiration, healthy boundaries, and innocence while warning of the troubles of getting swept away. Though Unlocking the Spell must reinforce some stereotypes to challenge them -- sister Gwendolyn uses a flash of hair and a glowing smile in a pinch to get her way -- readers are encouraged to consider the limitations of such traits. They should come away with a much more nuanced understanding of a variety of experiences girls may inhabit in the world and root for the level-headed, kind girl at the center of the action.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Unlocking the Spell treats beauty. Is it an asset or a liability? How so?
How does Unlocking the Spell handle stereotypes about gender, such as girls being beautiful and boys being useful? How does Annie challenge those notions? Is it a good or a bad thing in the book?
What message does Unlocking the Spell send about true love? Is it the possibility of love at first sight, that love is a sensible business arrangement, or that it comes from really getting to know someone over a long period of time? How are different characters in love, and what does it say about their relationships?
- Author: E.D. Baker
- Genre: Fairy Tale
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
- Publication date: May 9, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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