Friday, February 8, 2019

Little Red Rodent Hood by Ursula Vernon

I would just like to pause here to address something I've noticed over the past few years. Kids have shorter attention spans, struggle to read, and fewer kids read for pleasure. This has been shown in various studies. More and more young adult books, massive fantasy tomes, and lengthy books are being published. This is just my observation. When you try to offer a shorter book to a middle grade student (remember middle grade is ages 9-12 or 3rd to 6th grade) the response I almost always get is "that's a baby book" or "that's too easy for her" or "he needs to read something challenging". Even if the kid hates to read, struggles to read, or would rather do pretty much anything else. Basically, why does it have to be 400 pages long to be a "real" middle grade book? Where are the short books? Where?

Well, here's one of them! In Princess Harriet Hamsterbone's latest adventure, she meets a sweet, helpless little hamster in a red cloak who is being menaced by horrible weasel-wolves! Naturally, Harriet is ready to help, even though she finds the little girl (Red is her name? Really?) to be rather annoying. But there's something funny going on with the weasel-wolves, the "helpless" little girl, and her mysterious grandmother. Harriet is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery - after all, she only attacks bad people (except for that one time with the really realistic dragon costume and everyone apologized so it was ok). But just who is the bad person?

With a blend of art, comics, and wit, Vernon presents a story that, on the surface, is about a princess who does her duty (especially when it involves sword-work), and enjoys a good fraction or three-fifths. Underneath, there's a repetition of the themes in the previous books; not judging by appearances, realizing that people all have different strengths and interests, and taking time to understand different people. However, this book adds some interesting notes about acknowledging and accepting your own identity. This has never been a problem for Harriet (naturally, she's awesome and she knows it!) but there's a whole thing about if you've been turned into a were-wolf-weasel, you have to accept it and move on, or at least get some tactful therapy from Prince Wilbur, who is good at that kind of thing.

Verdict: I think Whiskerella might still be my favorite, but this is a strong addition to an excellent series. Buy them!

ISBN: 9780399186585; Published September by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher and donated to the library (I also bought a library copy and another copy for myself!)

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