The Runaway Princess // The Runaway Dragon // by Katie Coombs

//published 2006//

I actually really enjoy children’s books and try to read some throughout the year.  They frequently can hold as much emotion and thought-provoking-ness as books aimed at older readers, and I am always on the lookout for new favorites.  Mom read these books last year and thought that I might enjoy them, as I’m always up for fairy tales (and dragons).

These books focus on a princess named Meg, who lives a very happy life with her parents (in a castle, of course) until she turns 15 and her father and the prime minister decide to hold a contest for her hand – the prince who can vanquish the bandits, kill the dragon, and get rid of the witch will be given the traditional half the kingdom and Meg’s hand in marriage.

The first problem is that Meg has no interest in sitting around in a tower waiting to be rescued.  The second problem is that she thinks the bandits, dragon, and witch don’t deserve to die since they pretty much mind their own business.  So while the princes gather around to try and rescue Meg, Meg escapes from her tower and sets out to rescue the threats from whom she is supposedly being rescued!

The Runaway Princess had a lot of fun moments and some really likable characters.  It sometimes got a little heavy-handed on the whole “rebellious girl” theme (you know what I would like?  A story about a girl who LIKES embroidering!), and I think these kinds of stories can actually do girls an injustice by crossing a line from “girls can do whatever they want” to “if girls like girly things then they’re just wasting their lives,” which isn’t a message that I find to be particularly healthy, either.  Yes, girls should be able to learn swordfighting.  But they also shouldn’t be ashamed to learn sewing.

But on the whole, the adventure managed to ramble on without getting too polemic, and the characters were so likable that I was willing to overlook the eye-rolling moments.

//published 2009//

In the sequel, the baby dragon Meg discovers in the first book becomes impatient with his lot in life and takes off.  Meg and her friends set off to find the dragon, becoming embroiled in many adventures along the way.  While you definitely could read this book on its own, it was more enjoyable to read it after the first book, as most of Meg’s friends return for round two.

There are some great scenes in this one – some of the group being held captive by giants is particularly exciting – and plenty of rollicking adventures along the way.

All in all, these were easy 3.5* reads for me.  They were enjoyable and entertaining with likable characters.  Although the (frankly) boring message about how girls should be FREE from feminine constraints reared its ugly head, on the whole Coombs managed to keep it from taking over the whole story.  And there was a dragon, which always raises a book’s value for me.