Title: The Adventures of Princess Peony
Author: Nette Hilton, illustrated by Lucinda Gifford
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 1st August 2020
Synopsis: Princess Peony stars here in her first two adventures, reminding young readers why her princess credentials are as strong as they ever were.
The Adventures of Princess Peony features the plucky little princess’s first two adventures, reminding readers just how useful a quick wit, a strong imagination and a dog who thinks he’s a dragon can be. Especially when some TROLLS do not fully appreciate her greatness. Princess Peony must keep an eye on the evil troll (her brother) as he tries to steal her dragon (dog), all the while avoiding being eaten by a bear, restoring order to the kingdom and proving that she is, in fact, a princess.
• This paperback compilation of the much-loved, first two Princess Peony books, is the perfect gift to share with newly-independent readers, and the text begs to be read aloud, dramatically, of course.
• This is a series that encourages imaginative play. Peony is an ordinary girl who sees herself as a princess. This isn’t a game to her; it’s real. And readers can imagine their own royal worlds, especially with the tips and quizzes on princess-y sorts of things in the back of each book.
• Nette Hilton’s A Proper Little Lady picture book is an Australian Classic, and this series has that same sort of sensibility. It’s for creative girls with big ideas and strong opinions.
Princess Peony is the story of a young girl with a wild imagination. Her home and garden is her kingdom, her brother is a prince who is also a troll, and her dog is a dragon. She has a big imagination and big ideas about what being a princess is all about – and giving into a troll is not something she wants to do at all! From running away from bears to having to kiss a frog to find a prince, Princess Peony uses her creativity and smarts to outsmart her brother and create her own fun.
Princess Peony is a fun and imaginative series that teaches children of all ages and readership demographics, aimed at junior readers. Using imaginative play, it explores sibling rivalry, family and fun, and creativity, the story is fun and accessible. It teaches kids that using your imagination and what you have available to you can bring out some of the best games, which is perhaps a timely and good book for kids to read in these days of isolation, lockdowns and the pandemic – finding ways to make your own fun with what you have, just as Princess Peony does.
It also shows the power of imaginative play through the delightful black and white illustrations highlighted with purple. These simple illustrations, whilst giving us an idea of the world Princess Peony occupies, also allows kids to imagine themselves in the story and in their own story that might be like this or have its own differences. It promotes this kind of play too and shows kids that you don’t need the latest toys – that the people around you, and your environment can be enough to create a fun world you want to go back to.
Princess Peony is a confident character – she might come across as bossy but rather, she’s engaged in her play and idea of what a Princess should be – showing that girls can be confident in their play, and by extension, they can be confident in everything else they do – in their stories and their experiences. Both characters are interesting – and seen through a child’s eyes – their understanding of gender and their place in the family and in their games. Nette and Lucinda collectively execute this wonderfully through their words and images, which might provoke questions about gender and play, family and siblings. It allows children to understand how they see the world, and what happens when they are challenged, and equips them to come up with solutions to solve their problems – though I would not recommend making your brother kiss a frog’s bottom as Princess Peony does to her brother!
First published as two separate books, Walker Books has bound them together for release today, the first of August. The beginning of each story repeats the first few introductory sentences, providing three things: a refresher for readers, a way for new readers to come in at any stage in the series, and a familiarity and sense of sameness for children that appears in many children’s series in some form – a way to pull them back into the series and reassure them that not much has changed since the last book. It also connects the two together seamlessly and allows them to stand out as a series as well.
Each story is its own entity within this series, and can be read in order, or individually and the same essence of story, imagination, play and individuality is there. It is a series that will hopefully entertain and empower, and above all, be enjoyed by all readers, aged six and older.