Dig in to this middle-grade fantasy featuring a horticulturally minded princess, a beautiful but evil witch, and a magpie with a shameful secret. Princess Adela is not a typical princess. She’s neither particularly beautiful nor particularly graceful, and she’d rather spend her days digging new plots for her garden than listening to teatime gossip. But when her friend Garth is invited to a garden party hosted by Lady Hortensia — whose beauty is said to be rivaled only by the loveliness of her gardens — Adela ...
Dig in to this middle-grade fantasy featuring a horticulturally minded princess, a beautiful but evil witch, and a magpie with a shameful secret. Princess Adela is not a typical princess. She’s neither particularly beautiful nor particularly graceful, and she’d rather spend her days digging new plots for her garden than listening to teatime gossip. But when her friend Garth is invited to a garden party hosted by Lady Hortensia — whose beauty is said to be rivaled only by the loveliness of her gardens — Adela can’t resist coming along, even if it means stuffing herself into a too-tight dress and donning impractical shoes. But the moment Adela sets eyes on Hortensia’s garden, she knows something is amiss. Every single flower is in bloom — in the middle of October! Not only that, there is a talking magpie flitting about the garden and stealing the guests’ jewels. Is it possible that Hortensia is a witch and the magpie an enchanted prince? And what of the flowers themselves? Will Adela get to the root of the mystery and nip trouble in the bud before it’s too late?
Princess Adela loves gardening. Never mind that she is already over seventeen and her stepmother, Queen Cecile, is anxious to present her to society. No matter that Adela is not terribly pretty, since everyone would like to marry a princess. Adela is not ready for romance, although she likes handsome gardener Garth, an interest quickly crushed when Garth becomes mesmerized by Cecile's younger sister, Marguerite. When the three receive an invitation to Lady Hortensia's garden party in the distant Flower Mountain, Adela is ready to go just to see the fabulous flowers rumored to bloom there. As soon as they arrive, however, things go badly wrong. Adela is separated from her companions and secretly watches in horror as Marguerite is changed into a daisy. She learns from a talking magpie that Hortensia is a powerful witch who changes all her female guests into the very flowers in her garden, while enchanting the men into foolish, love-smitten servants. Hortensia collects all the jewels worn by these unfortunate ones, and magpie Krazo steals those she misses. Krazo knows of a secret box buried beneath a huge rose bush that may contain their salvation, but, before Adela can obtain it, Hortensia finds her and makes her a dandelion. Adela is a modern heroine masquerading as a fairy-tale princess. She rejects convention, takes charge of her own life, and prevails with both right and might over the forces of evil. Most interestingly, when magpie Krazo becomes young man Edward and the two declare their love for each other, Adela sets off to travel with him, telling Queen Cecile that the wedding will happen later, contrary to your usual fairy-tale ending. Straightforward, simple prose with plenty of dialogue makes Garden Princess a quick and easy read. Reviewer: Laura Woodruff
- Sandra Eichelberger
This is not the Secret Garden, but Kladstrup's garden certainly holds many secrets. Princess Adela loves gardening, and she wants to learn more about a mysterious garden where flowers bloom all year long. When Garth, the son of her father's head gardener, receives an invitation to a party at this perennially-flowering garden, Adele asks if she can attend with him. Once in Hortensia's garden, Adela is excited to see the luscious blooms, until she overhears something most unusual in this strange garden. Doubting her ears, Adele tries to rationalize what she heard and saw; to believe it would mean evil magic is at work. All is not as it seems with the garden—or with Hortensia. Much of the story deals with magic and evil forces, but there is more to this fantasy. The nature of beauty and the importance we place on comely looks are integral to the story. Vanity, self-absorption, and greed are at the root of Hortensia's evil. As the secrets come to light, Adela tries to put an end to Hortensia's cruel machinations but she too is doomed to fail until a magpie shows he is more than a thieving bird. Kladstrup's story is engaging, and her characters are nicely drawn. Adele shows intelligence, strength, and self-assurance. Clever, touching, and interesting, this is a great selection for middle school readers. Reviewer: Sandra Eichelberger
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Everyone in the kingdom has heard about Lady Hortensia and her beautiful garden. The rumors say that every flower in it is always in bloom, but Princess Adela, a gardening expert and enthusiast, is sure that can't be true. When the princess's friend Garth receives a mysterious invitation to Hortensia's garden party, Adela arranges to accompany him. The plain-looking princess has never cared much for her looks, yet she can't help but notice that every guest is uncommonly beautiful or handsome. Wandering among flowers she knows shouldn't be in bloom, Adela learns the frightening secret of Hortensia's magic garden and finds herself in terrible danger. The story unfolds through the alternating viewpoints of Adela and Krazo, the enchanted magpie who manages to snag a few choice jewels from guests when he's not forced to do Hortensia's bidding. Short chapters keep the story moving, though the novel lacks well-developed characters and exploration of Hortensia's motives. Krazo has the most interesting character arc; while discerning readers will have guessed his identity early on, they will follow the story to see how his choices will affect the outcome. An intriguing backstory involving an ancestor of Adela's who banned belief in magic isn't pursued, but readers interested in a light romance with a touch of magic and mystery will find this a passable choice.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
Princess Adela's great-great-great grandfather thought he had declared an end to magic. In fact, the powerful Hortensia had driven all other practitioners away, leaving the field fertile for her own purposes. Now it is up to Adela to rescue the youth Hortensia has bewitched. Hortensia regularly hosts parties where she turns the most beautiful young women into eternally blooming flowers and men into besotted servants. Their bespelled families believe their children have chosen to stay and soon forget them. When plain Adela, an aspiring gardener longing to see Hortensia's gardens, crashes a party and witnesses Hortensia at work, she must take up the mantle of another of her ancestors. Informed by stories of King Ival's battles against evil and aided by a talking magpie, Adela discovers the root of Hortensia's power. The mythology of Ival's deeds is nicely interwoven with Adela's tale. Unvarnished storytelling, a solid back story and a strong cast of characters ground the tale. Children will readily identify with Adela's painful doubts about whether anyone will see the beauty and strength within her. For those willing to dig deeper, the magpie is the more interesting, complex character. If, ultimately, the message is a bit didactic, all will still cheer Adela's growth. An original fairy tale that will suit young romantics to a T. (Fantasy. 9-12)
Kristin Kladstrup is the author of the middle-grade novel The Book of Story Beginnings as well as the picture book The Gingerbread Pirates, illustrated by Matt Tavares. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.