Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

My 11-year-old daughter pounced on Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible (first in a new series by Ursula Vernon, creator of Dragonbreath; Dial, 2015) as soon as I brought it home from the library, then insisted I read it, too (as if I hadn't been planning on reading it first). Obviously, it has lots of kid appeal--it's got a hamster princess, for goodness' sake (her name is Harriet). But that's not all: Like the Dragonbreath series, Hamster Princess is heavily illustrated (here in black and white with shades of purple; there is no pink inside, I promise), and the text alternates occasionally with speech bubbles to move the story forward.  Also like Dragonbreath, it's really funny, in an occasionally ridiculous way. And while there are lots of fairy tale retellings (this one is Sleeping Beauty), Harriet the Invincible still manages to surprise.

Harriet is your typical not-princessy princess: she wants to slay a dragon, her parents refuse. I love Harriet's argument: "But I'm a princess! If I do it, it's got to be something princesses do! Who makes these rules!?" (It reminds me of Roseanne, the sitcom mom, telling daughter Darlene that a ball and glove are a girl's things, as long as a girl is using them.) When Harriet finds out that she has been cursed by the evil Ratshade to prick herself on a hamster wheel on her twelfth birthday, she realizes that she's invincible til then, and rides off on Mumfrey, her battle quail (Qwerk?) to do some cliff-diving, dragon-slaying, and jousting on the professional circuit. She'll worry about the curse later.

Harriet does eventually defeat Ratshade and lift the curse that falls on the inhabitants of the castle, although she has to recruit a prince (and a hydra) to help her with the kissing part. Prince Wilbur is a good foil for Harriet, and their next adventure, Of Mice and Magic (very loosely based on the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses), is forthcoming in March 2016. Recommended for elementary-aged kids, and anyone who likes the idea of a hamster princess.