Review of The Princess in Black and the Prince in Pink, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

The Princess in Black and the Prince in Pink

by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2023. 90 pages.
Review written May 4, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review

I love the Princess in Black series! This is the tenth book in the series. By now, Princess Magnolia, a frilly princess who wears lots of pink, has gathered many other princess friends who also have secret identities. Magnolia’s secret identity is the Princess in Black, who fights monsters.

In this book, the princesses run into a problem at the Flower Festival Fair where a knight in shining armor named Prince Valerian helps banish a giant grumpy emu. But when the emu smashes Princess Magnolia’s decoration for the fancy ball at the end of the day — it turns out that Prince Valerian’s secret identity is exactly what they need.

The reader learns that Prince Valerian is secretly the Prince in Pink.

“Champion of celebrations! Paladin of parties! Darling of discos! Wherever there is a festival in distress, there I will be with a helping hand.” He shook a tasseled glove.

It’s great fun. Mind you, Prince Valerian is not a girl. But he’s a prince who enjoys a nontypical prince activity, decorating with glitter and sparkles, just as the Princess in Black enjoys a nontypical princess activity, fighting monsters.

And it’s all done with so much fun. I love the way the characters wink at each other’s secret identities:

The Princess in Black looked around. To her surprise — and delight — she saw the ballroom was now full of her hero friends. Her princess friends had mysteriously disappeared. And there! The Prince in Pink had returned!

So yes, this book is delightful fun. But I got even more enthusiastic about it after reading a twitter thread from Shannon Hale. A mom had given a 1-star review to this book. Shannon beautifully explains how not allowing boys to ever express “feminine” traits is a result of devaluing women. Okay, she says it much more beautifully than that quick summary. But, yes, both the Princess in Black and the Prince in Pink are going against gender stereotypes. If you think the first is okay, but not the second, step back and question why that would be so. (And read Shannon’s thoughts on it in the Twitter thread.

This is a delightful story that shakes up gender stereotypes in beautiful ways.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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