Princess Ben: Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted To
Princess Ben: Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted To
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Annotation: A girl is transformed, through instruction in life at court, determination, and magic, from sullen, pudgy, graceless Ben into Crown Princess Benevolence, a fit ruler of the kingdom of Montagne as it faces war with neighboring Drachensbett.
Catalog Number: #26390
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Inventory Sale Inventory Sale
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition Date: 2008
Pages: 344 pages
Availability: Available (Limited Quantities Available / While Supplies Last)
ISBN: Publisher: 0-547-22325-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-19120-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-547-22325-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-19120-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2007034300
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
Fifteen-year-old Ben--plump, petulant, indulged--happens upon a mysterious tower, where she learns conjuring and enchantment. Political intrigue, romance, and self-actualization are skillfully interwoven in this frothy yet substantial fairy tale. Murdock's prose blends a formal syntax with an intimate tone that bonds readers with Ben as she transforms from a selfish child into a competent, compassionate woman.
Kirkus Reviews
Princess Benevolence isn't a run-of-the-mill spoiled princess. Ben doesn't want to live in the royal castle wearing beautiful dresses. She'd rather sulk in her family apartments over the barracks, staying a scruffy, indulged ragamuffin. But Ben's parents are ambushed, leaving her, now the heir to the throne, in the care of her haughty aunt, the regent queen Sophia. Sophia is cold and loveless, determined to mold Ben into a marriageable princess. Ben's aunt starves her to make her willowy, forces her to take dance lessons to make her graceful and locks her in a barren bedroom cell to break her spirit. When she discovers a hidden door in her bleak bedroom, she throws herself into the task of learning magic. Maybe witchcraft will provide escape from Sophia, salvation from marriage and vengeance for her parents' deaths? Ben's coming-of-age fits well into a now-common fantasy mold: She grows into a self-reliant heroine, kicking butt while acquiring social graces on her own terms, saving the kingdom and the handsome prince—she's a fairy-tale princess for the modern girl. An amusing, heartwarming adventure put forth in richly flavored prose. (Fantasy. 11-13)
Publishers Weekly

Murdock (Dairy Queen%0D) reworks now standard elements of the modern fairy tale%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%94reluctant princess, haughty prince, evil queen, portentous prophesies%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%94for this frothy coming-of-age story. Princess Ben (short for Benevolence) is effectively orphaned after assassins kill her uncle the king and her mother, and her father disappears. Now heiress to Montagne's throne, Ben is forced into the tutelage of her aunt, Queen Sophia, with a regimen of dance lessons, embroidery and dieting, all in order to be married off to Florian, crown prince of menacing Drachensbett. After their umpteenth clash, the queen locks Ben in a tower, where Ben discovers a hidden portal, a wizarding room and a book of spells. Through her forays in magic, Ben learns that if Drachensbett's leaders can't marry their way into controlling Montagne, they will take it by force, and she will have to use her smarts to save her country. There's no new ground broken%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%94the sardonic, witty repartee between Ben and Florian would fit right into a Shrek%0D sequel%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%94but the story (think poor man's Gail Carson Levine) is thoroughly entertaining. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)%0D

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 610 After 15-year-old Princess Benevolence's parents and her uncle, the king, are presumed killed by agents of neighboring, much-larger Drachensbett, she moves to the palace to live with her widowed aunt, Sophia, now the queen regent, to be groomed as heir to the throne. When Ben discovers magic within the walls of her castle home, she finds a means for asserting her independence and escaping her aunt's control. After a series of adventures and hardships away from the castle, including time spent as a prisoner and drudge in a Drachensbett army camp, Ben ultimately returns to the castle to accept her royal duties. Since her previous behavior has led to questions about her suitability for the throne, she must prove herself to her friends and enemies, using her magic and her wits to find her own adult role. At first, Ben is somewhat spoiled and childish, but the loss of her parents forces her to grow and mature. The first-person narrative is presented as the writing of a much-older Ben, looking back at her life, which allows for both immediacy and frequent humorous comments. The formal tone contrasts with Ben's droll remarks about her many misfortunes. The magic is a significant tool, but her intellect and decisions for how to use her powers are more important than her limited repertoire of spells. Murdock's first venture into fantasy offers a fairy tale with several twists and surprises, and readers will be drawn into the world and moods that she creates. Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* In this new offering, the author of Dairy Queen (2006) and The Off-Season (2007) shifts from a contemporary Wisconsin setting to a magical, snowbound kingdom. Once again, though, Murdock's protagonist is a winning, iconoclastic teen female. Princess Benevolence's life is upended during a single afternoon's tragedy: while visiting an ancestor's grave, her uncle and her mother are killed, and her father disappears. Ben, now the kingdom's heir, begins grueling lessons with her aunt Sophia, learning "myriad responsibilities and arts of royalty." Just as her tutelage becomes unbearable, she discovers a hidden wizard's room in the castle and begins teaching herself, using the enchanted spell books she finds there. Then tense negotiations to marry Ben to the sullen heir of a neighboring kingdom commence. Gathering her newfound magical knowledge, the princess flees the castle only to find grave dangers outside its walls. In delicious language that is both elevated and earthy, Murdock spins a rip-roaring yarn that borrows fairy-tale conventions (particularly from "Sleeping Beauty") and reverses them to suit her strong, resourceful heroine. The wild adventure, intricately imagined setting, memorable characters, and romance will charm readers, especially fans of Gail Carson Levine's Fairest (2006).
Word Count: 64,149
Reading Level: 7.9
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 7.9 / points: 11.0 / quiz: 121692 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:10.3 / points:17.0 / quiz:Q44100
Lexile: 1090L
How often indeed I have pondered the hand fate would have dealt me had I accompanied my parents that dismal spring morning. Such musings, I concede, are naught but the near side of madness, for envisioning what might have been has no more connection to our own true reality than a lunatic has to a lemon. Nevertheless, particularly in those morose interludes that at times overburden even the most jovial of souls, my thoughts return to my dear mother and father, and again I marvel at the utter unpredictability of life, and the truth that our futures are so often determined not by some grand design or deliberate strategy but by the mundane capriciousness of a head cold. To be candid, my sickness did not occur completely by chance. I had exhausted myself in preparing for my fifteenth birthday fete the week before, had gorged myself during the festivities on far too many sweets, and had then caught a chill during a lengthy game of stags and hunters with my party guests in the twilight forest. Now, however, denying all my symptoms, I endeavored to join my parents. “I have to go!" I insisted from my bed. “It's my grandfather." My mother sighed. “Your grandfather would never approve of his granddaughter of all people making herself twice as ill on his account." She replaced the cloth, soaked in her own herbal concoction, on my forehead, and coaxed some tea across my lips. “Why don't you draw him a picture instead? I promise to leave it in a place of honor." “A picture?" I scoffed. “I wish you'd realize I'm not a child." She kissed my flushed cheeks with a smile. “Try to sleep, darling. We'll be back before dusk." These words, too, I ponder. My indignation notwithstanding, all evidence demonstrated that I was still very much a child. After all, I had brought this illness upon myself. Worse, I had sensed the head cold brewing yet petulantly refused to follow my mother's advice, so sacrificing that pinch of prevention for cup after cup of homemade cure. My bedroom was crowded with stacks of fairy tales, many of the pages illuminated with my own crude drawings, and dolls in myriad displays of dishabille. How easy it would have been for my mother—indeed, were the tables turned, I would have so responded without hesitation—to point out my childishness. I told you so may be painless to utter, but that does not diminish the anguish these four words inflict upon a listener already in pain. That my mother held her tongue and gave me only love when I merited chiding demonstrates her empathy. So many times in the decades since I have reminded myself of her innate compassion, and on my best days have striven to match it. At the time, though, I simply sulked, and so my father found me as he strode in to wish me well. Even in the gloom of that overcast morning, he looked magnificent, his dress armor polished to a high gleam and his prince's circlet, excavated from the woolen trunks for its semiannual outing, shining against his graying curls. He settled on my bedside with a clank or two. “'Tis a great shame you can't join us today." I pouted. “I could go. If you let me." “And have your mother put my head on a stake? Do you have any notion what that would do to my handsome good looks?" I refused to be cheered. He eyed me with a twinkle. “What if I returned with a dragon?" Through enormous focus, I maintained my glower. “A wee green one that whistled like a kettle? It could roast chestnuts for you on winter mornings." Despite my best efforts, up crept the corners of my mouth. “And warm your chilblains when you're old," I added.
“‘Ben,' I'd call out, ‘where's that blasted dragon of yours? My old toes are freezing!'" “And I'll go and find the dragon—" “Where it's playing with my grandchildren—" “And ask it, quite nicely, to come inside and attend to the needs of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Montagne." I giggled; I could not help it. “Oh, bosh! You say that to a dragon and it'll gobble me up, as sure as salt's salt." “And what would that do to your handsome good looks?" I teased him. “Improve them, I'd wager," he answered with a grin. “Now, you be good and drink that wretched concoction, and I'll take you up there next week. Just the two of us." “Truly? With a picnic? A big one?" “Absolutely." He, too, kissed my cheeks, and with a last exaggerated bow in my direction, he clattered down the stairs. Wrapping myself in a quilt, I crept to the window. In the courtyard below, Mother frowned as she struggled to fit her own golden princess circlet, for she had little skill at ceremony. With a flourish of trumpets, Uncle Ferdinand appeared at the great entrance to the castle proper, looking every inch the king in his robes of state. Unlike my father, UUncle Ferdinand truly was handsome, tall and lean and solemn. At his side stepped the group's martial escort, Xavier the Elder, a grizzled warrior who had shaved so thoroughly that several nicks still oozed blood. Queen Sophia appeared as well, displaying the precise gestures and expressions expected of a woman of her rank. A quintet of soldiers played a military hymn, and then Mother, Father, Ferdinand, and Xavier strode across the drawbridge through a double phalanx of saluting guards. Father glanced back to smile a last greeting at me as Mother slipped her arm through his and lay her head on his shoulder. His armor must have been cold, given the unseasonable chill of the day, but the love between them transcended such trivial discomfort. Seeing them off, the queen stood at attention for exactly the amount of time that a queen should, and then with a cool flick of her gown turned back toward the castle, the footmen falling in behind her. Alone at last, the quilt about my shoulders, I sighed as I considered all the tasks that awaited me. A wool vest I had begun for Father the previous autumn lay half-finished, my efforts immobilized by a plethora of dropped stitches. Clearly it would not serve him this winter; at the rate I was progressing, years could pass before the thing warmed him. My mother had delegated to me the task of transcribing her grandmother's yellowed recipes, the goal being to learn the art of cooking while improving my penmanship. Unfortunately the assignment always left me famished, rooting through the kitchen pantries like an autumn bear. Hunger was a burden I could not tolerate for even a heartbeat, a truth that my physique amply demonstrated. Simply glancing at the stack of stained and curling recipes sent my stomach to growling. Outside, the master of hounds returned with his pack, the dogs gleeful and wet from a long run and a swim in the Great River. But even their prancing enthusiasm did not lift my own misery. With only the ubiquitous murmur from the soldiers' barracks to comfort me, I crept back into bed, seeking refuge from the oppressive mist that cloaked the castle's turrets. Perusing my shelves, I could not find one volume to satisfy me. The fairy tales I had read countless times. The more recent additions held even less interest: dry histories of Montagne, geometry textbooks, a medical treatise on bloodletting that my mother appeared never to have opened and that she now put to use as a bookend. I squirmed further under the covers. My mind drifted, wondering if the foursome had yet arrived at my grandfather's tomb, what they would say there in his honor. I had practiced my own speech for weeks, and had been quite proud of my little poem praising the Badger's courage, the last stanza in particular:

You perished to save all of us. I hope your armor never rusts.

A dramatic conclusion, I believed at the time, though it now occurred to me that any armor entombed with a corpse for thirty-odd years would doubtless experience some corrosion. This realization only deepened my malaise. At last I drifted into a fitful sleep. Though slumber should remove us from the trials of our waking life—surely I always settled my head with this expectation, and ere this day had always found satisfaction—my present nap did rather the opposite. Almost at once, it seemed, my rest was disturbed by haunting images of the castle corridors. Not my familiar apartment, constructed scarce a century earlier with the new perimeter fortifications, but the castle proper, noble and ancient, with walls as thick as three men, and the Montagne hedgehog, emblem of the kingdom, carved in countless obscure corners. In this dream as I walked the corridors, one of these hedgehogs uncurled itself and turned to stare at me with black, unblinking eyes. Try as I might, I could not escape this piercing glare; I was trapped as utterly as a fish on a hook, though unlike a fish I could not even thrash about, for the paralysis of nightmare held me immobilized. Larger and larger those eyes grew, until their impenetrable blackness filled my vision. I had the sensation, provided by that sporadic omniscience that accompanies dream- state, that I must creep forward, though I had not a notion in the world whereto I was headed, or whether the floor below me would dissolve in abyss. At once a voice, opaque and unidentifiable, filled my ears: “It is time."

Excerpted from Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

With her parents lost, Princess Benevolence ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia. Locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins her secret education in the magical arts.


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