The Ordinary Princess

by M. M. Kaye

Paperback, 2002

Status

Available

Local notes

PB Kay

Barcode

1020

Publication

Puffin Books (2002), Edition: Reprint, 128 pages

Description

At her christening, a princess is given the gift of "ordinariness" by a fairy, and the consequences of that eventually take her to a nearby palace where, as the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid, she meets just the prince for her.

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

1980

Physical description

128 p.; 5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member ltjennysbooks
The eponymous princess in this book, Amy, is the youngest of seven princesses, each more beautiful than the last. At her christening, the water fairy Crustacea comes and announces “You shall be ordinary!” Which is just what Amy grows up to be, mousy hair and freckles and a turned-up nose, and
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when she’s of marriageable age nobody wants to marry her, and what with one thing and another she runs away and gets a job as a scullery maid in another kingdom. There she meets a very agreeable man-of-all-work called Perry, and on their days off, they hang out in the forest feeding nuts to squirrels and building a little cottage for themselves. (Until all is discovered.)

M.M. Kaye is so mysterious. She wrote two books about India, Shadow of the Moon and The Far Pavilions, which I really enjoyed. She wrote a series of mysteries, which I found terribly tedious. She wrote a book called Trade Winds in which the protagonist gets raped and falls in love with her rapist and they live happily ever after, which I’m not even going to get into because it makes me so furious. And then she wrote The Ordinary Princess, the loveliest book ever.

I can see how this book would sound totally saccharine – Amy hums merry songs while she does her drudgery work, and she has animal friends with names that follow her around. She talks to her wisteria vine and likes picking wildflowers with the local maidens. This talking to plants and animals and frolicking in meadows tends to be the sort of thing about which my mother puts on her old lady voice and snaps “Too sweet to be wholesome!” EXCEPT THAT, M.M. Kaye obviously decided that every time she started to be saccharine, she would stop being saccharine and be AWESOME instead.

True story.

Moreover, in case this story wasn’t already genius enough (it was), M.M. Kaye illustrated it herself, and I have rarely read a book in which the illustrations went so well with the story. Not even The Ghost of Opalina. Amy looks exactly like you’d think she would – ordinary. Not ugly. Just ordinary. And Perry, who is introduced as “the nice young man” looks like an exactly nice young man. I would go out with Perry. He offers her illicit ice cream, and makes her a necklace out of acorn cups.

I can’t imagine why anyone would not like The Ordinary Princess. Do you have books like that, where you really can’t see any reason for anybody, ever, to dislike it? Is it because they’re stunningly good, or because they’re just friendly and likeable?
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LibraryThing member mybookshelf
While the royal family of Phantasmorania prepare for the birth of a seventh child, excitement runs high: “a seventh daughter is always lucky”. Custom dictates that fairies must be invited to the christening of a seventh daughter, and regardless of how rash the idea appears, fairies are invited
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accordingly. Which is how the Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne comes to have a most unusual gift bestowed upon her by the Fairy Crustacea: she shall be ORDINARY.

The rest of the royal family are scandalised by this gift, which takes effect immediately. The seventh princess is not beautiful, as a princess should be; nor is she interested in royal things such as elegance and deportment and complexion and embroidery. Most especially, the Ordinary Princess (now known to her family only as Amy) is not at all interested in “a very handsome husband with no sense of humour”.

In fact, having married off his six elder daughters, His Majesty King Hulderbrand (who always felt that to invite fairies to a christening was rash) becomes quite heated about the difficulty of getting an appropriate husband for Amy. Eventually a plan is agreed upon, involving a dragon and a quest and the princess’ hand in marriage promised in return. The Ordinary Princess thwarts this, however, by discovering the plan in advance and running away before it can be put into action.

None of the grown-ups in this story are particularly endearing, being all rather obsessed with politics, or custom, or gossip, or beauty. Amy regrets being a disappointment to her parents, but neither she nor the reader feels any great sadness when she must run away, perhaps forever, from her family home. However the story does end rather happily-ever-after, and the King and Queen are delighted to be reunited with their youngest and most ordinary daughter.

This story is a delight to read, as it includes all the necessary elements of a proper fairy-tale, as well as a heroine who is actually plausible. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of life in the Royal Palace and of the Forest of Faraway, which are exactly as one might imagine a storybook castle and its surrounding forest to be. But before it all becomes too predictable, the reader also finds (for example) ordinary, likable Amy musing: “work… I’m not sure I should like that”.

This is a really pleasant and satisfying book to read. I recommend it to readers, especially girls, who may be growing out of fairy-tales, but still sometimes daydream about what it would be like to be a princess, or alternatively those who might be in danger of becoming disillusioned with too-typical stories about unrealistic royal families.
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LibraryThing member trinityofone
A fun, witty fairy tale revamp in which a young princess, at her fairy christening, is given the gift of ordinariness. Kaye's prose style (which to me seemed wonderfully dry and English) was very enjoyable to read; I didn't, however, enjoy this quite as much as I thought I was going to. I'm
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actually totally willing to blame myself for this: I think I started overthinking it—"Wouldn't it be much more transgressive," I thought, "for the king to fall in love with and marry a *real* kitchen maid rather than a princess disguised as one? And Amy really isn't that bright." Shut up, brain. Sometimes I am just cranky.
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LibraryThing member silentq
A fairy is invited to the christening of the 7th daughter of a king and queen, and she bestows the gift of being Ordinary on the princess. The baby's curls straighten and turn mousy, her nose turns up and freckles and she has a happy childhood climbing trees in the Forest of Faraway. Then once all
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her sisters are married off, the King's attention falls to her, and things change. The tone of the book is very whimsical, names are based on qualities or stations in life and a sense of playfulness runs through the story.
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LibraryThing member plettie2
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It was given as a gift to me when I was very young. It helped me get through some very awkward years of my youth. When my original copy was destroyed in a flood, I went to great lengths to replace. I recommend this novel for EVERY young girl. Forget
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Twilight, this is the book to give your daughter, niece, godchild, etc . . .
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LibraryThing member atimco
The Ordinary Princess is a lovely little story that plays on fairytale conventions before that idea became fashionable. In this tale, M. M. Kaye, known for her sweeping historical novels and exotic mysteries, shows herself not only an able children's author, but also a talented illustrator.

The
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Ordinary Princess tells the story of the seventh daughter of King Hulderbrand and Queen Rodehesia. Of course all princesses are blonde, beautiful, and accomplished, but a seventh princess must be even more so (the youngest princess is always the prettiest, in all the stories). At the christening of Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, all the fairies bestow on her all the usual gifts of Health and Charm and Beauty and Wit, except the last fairy — the grumpy Fairy Crustacea. Her gift? "You shall be ORDINARY!" And so it was. The beautiful blonde hair turned mousy brown, the happily placid child began screaming like any ordinary baby would, and Phantasmorania had to resign itself to an outstandingly average seventh princess.

Amy, as she became known, grew up so exceedingly ordinary that all her princely suitors left abruptly after meeting her. Amy didn't mind; she often slipped out of the palace to roam the forest and forget her mother's efforts to fade her freckles and curl her hair. One day Amy learns of a plan to lock her in a tower besieged by a dragon so that some noble knight would have to rescue her (and then, of course, marry her). Amy runs away and finds a whole new life in another kingdom, where she meets a charming man-of-all-work at the castle. But despite her ordinariness, Amy's still a princess... how can they ever be together?

Kaye's authorial voice is humorous, the pacing is perfect, and the illustrations exquisite. The plot's a little predictable, but only because it's been copied so many times since. I loved this story and am coming to regard Kaye as a favorite author. Recommended!
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LibraryThing member sara_k
The Ordinary Princess is Amethyst, seventh daughter of the king and queen of Phantasmorania. Seventh princesses are usually extremely gifted, beautiful, and sweet tempered. Amethyst starts out that way but, against her father's wishes, her mother and the leaders of the realm plan a grand
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christening with fairies invited. The Queen assures the King that all fairies have been invited and there will be no "Sleeping Beauty Incidents". Ah well, the best laid plans of Kings and Queens gang aft astray. On the great day traffic is horrible and this annoys the greatest fairy who is grumpy when she arrives and reads the list of normal and magical gifts given to the 7th princess. She gifts (or curses) the princess with being ordinary.

An ordinary life suits Amy and she makes the most of it until all her older sisters are married and gone and it becomes her turn to get married. Horrified at the plan to rent a dragon to trash the countryside and thus lure in a Prince to save the country and win her in marriage, Amy runs away.

Amy lives in the woods until her clothing starts to fall apart. She makes her way to a town and gets a job in the kitchen to earn enough for a new dress. Can there be a future outside of kitchen wench for Amy? Will she meet people who can be her friends? Someone to love? At least people expect a kitchen wench to be ordinary.
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LibraryThing member pocketmermaid
This book is DELIGHTFUL! I wish I'd read it sooner, because I'm not sure how I lived so long without being exposed to the wonderfully ordinary Princess Amy.
LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Fun, if not particularly deep. Are princes not required to look all alike? Not even heroic ones? I always enjoy fairy tales with twists. Hmmm, I'd like to see this particular twist twisted again - a beautiful, goldenhaired princess who is also intelligent, capable and independent. The princes don't
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really need much - there are handsome and plain ones, the difference is in their attitudes and that varies all over the place. Anyway, good story.
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LibraryThing member Herenya
The Ordinary Princess is very short. It's a lovely story about the youngest princess who is given the gift of being ordinary. When her parents start turning to desperate measures to get her married, Amy runs away to live in the forest with her companions - Mr Pemberthy (a squirrel) and Peter
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Aurelious (crow). This happy existence is interrupted by the deterioration of Amy's clothes. In order to purchase new ones, Amy gets a job as a kitchen maid at the castle in a neighbouring kingdom... and makes an unexpected friend.

It's sweet, humourous and forgivably predictable. (It is, afterall, a princess story written for children.) It has amusing illustrations, and is a clever twist on the traditional tales. I wish I had read it as a child, but I certainly don't regret having read now.
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LibraryThing member FireandIce
I remembered reading this book as a little girl and it turns out I liked it even more as an adult. Definitely a book all little girls should read (or have read to them).
LibraryThing member bluesalamanders
By tradition, all the fairies are invited to the christening of Amethyst, the seventh princess. Most of them give traditional gifts of Wit, Charm, etc, but Crustacea (fairy in charge of water) decides to stir things up and makes her Ordinary. So, along with being witty and charming and healthy and
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courageous, Amy has mousy hair and grayish-brown eyes and freckles! Plus she prefers climbing trees and playing in the forest over spending time with her very un-Ordinary sisters.

I was having trouble concentrating on anything longer, so I grabbed The Ordinary Princess, which I loved as a kid. For the most part, the story still holds up. It's sort of a parody of the Disney fairy tales where all the princesses are blonde and blue-eyed and useless (which Amy's sisters, who we never really meet, apparently are).

It's a charming story about a princess who doesn't want to wait around to meet her prince (and maybe doesn't even want to get married at all!) and instead runs off to have some ordinary adventures. Reminiscent of Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede; Amy and Cimorene would probably be great friends.
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LibraryThing member desislc
One of my absolute favorite books! Both the story and illustrations can only be called charming. I love how Princess Amy creates her own destiny when being ordinary doesn't cut it in the royal palace.
LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
Illustrated by the author, this awesome take on fairytales has it's tongue firmly stuck in cheek. Amy (properly Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne) has a lot of gifts given to her by her fairy godmothers (which her father was against, he remembers what happened to
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his great-great-great grandmother who ended up sleeping for one hundred years) and then the last one, Crustacea (the fairy in charge of water) gifts her with being ordinary. And so she grows up. When her family fail to find her a proper suitor and threaten to hire a dragon, she runs away and finds that she has to work. Then she finds love, but can the love survive the truth about her?

It's a lovely story and well recommended for anyone who has overdosed on the supremely beautiful girls who populate teen fiction. The illustrations are perfect, but then they would be as they're by the author, and the story I really enjoyed.
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LibraryThing member lina_em
THE BEST KIDS" STORY EVER!!!!
LibraryThing member breadcrumbreads
WANTED: One little princess, preferably the youngest of seven. Should have no blue eyes and no golden hair. Should love the woods more than her clothes. In other words, should be 'ordinary'. In her foreword to The Ordinary Princess M M Kaye says she was inspired to write this story after re-reading
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a few of Andrew Lang's fairy tales. Realising that the princesses mentioned were, for the most part, blue-eyed and gloden-haired and quite perfect, Kaye decided that a story about an imperfect princess was what was needed. Thus, the story is about the seventh princess born to the King and Queen of Phantasmorania. She was the most beautiful baby, as was predicted she would be by everyone in the kingdom. But on the day of the chiristening, a particularly powerful fairy decides to grant the new princess the gift of ordinariness. So Amy, the last princess, grows up to be as unlike her six older, beautiful sisters as can be. And since she is so ordinary no prince or duke or king wants to marry her. Her parents hatch a desperate plan that does not appeal to Amy and, therefore, causes her to flee the castle. She soon learns how to live an 'ordinary' life like any other ordinary person, and her adventures soon lead her to her future husband. The Ordinary Princess is a fairytale in every sense of the word - minus a gorgeous looking princess. But peppered through-out the telling is a gentle vein of satire, poking fun at the usual themes and twists and turns a typical fairytale takes. I found some little things absolutely delightful! Like when the King of Phantasmorania speaks of his great-great-great grandmother - the one who fell asleep for a hundred years and the rest of the court with her (a reference to Sleeping Beauty); and when someone rather caustically remarks how everybody knows future kings were always the 'youngest' sons of the eldest princesses - again a reference to many fairytales where the youngest prince is always the wisest and the kindest. I enjoyed reading this tale; and while it wasn't particularly 'original', in light of the way fairytales are portrayed in this day and age on the movie screen, I think, for thrity decades ago, it must have been a refreshing change. All the characters in the story are absolutely endearing. I must admit to brief moments of wishing that this princess would be charmed back to what she was originally supposed to be, but then the whole purpose of the story would be lost. Also, I realised then, how much the stories of beautiful princesses are engrained in our psychee that we always believe that all princesses must be so! I would highly recommend this book for children and all those who love fairytales. It's absolutely worth it.
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LibraryThing member bexaplex
Sweet tale of an average-tempered freckled girl who happens to be a princess. Mom and dad try to marry her off to stuffy politicos but she's having none of it, runs off to the forest and gets a job. Perfect for reading at bedtime.
LibraryThing member LauraDragonWench
Simple, beautiful, lyrical. One of the best remembered books from my childhood and one I still find enjoyment in today. Not only is M.M. Kaye a gifted writer, but, annoyingly, she's also a gifted artist as well, as the gorgeous drawings of this book attest. I can honestly say this book, more than
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any other, inspired me to write. Although I will never be able to attain her simplicity of prose, her example encourages me to continue to try.
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LibraryThing member mariacle
This book is a favorite from my youth, and I am pleased to say it holds up well. It is the story of a princess who, obviously, is quite ordinary and a prince who maybe isn't charming in the traditional, fairy-tale meaning. The princess is strong-willed and opinionated and most definitely does not
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want her life arranged for her, so she takes her life into her own hands, and does rather well for herself.
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LibraryThing member StefanieGeeks
I still love this book and re-read it every few years. Lovely and simple princess story too strong for Disney types.
LibraryThing member KatieBeitz
This is a really lovely twist on the traditional children's tale. The novel is full of humour and magic. The Princess Amy is a character who all young girls should meet. One of my favourite childhood memories is curling up in a sunny corner of the house reading this story.
LibraryThing member KatieBeitz
This is a really lovely twist on the traditional children's tale. The novel is full of humour and magic. The Princess Amy is a character who all young girls should meet. One of my favourite childhood memories is curling up in a sunny corner of the house reading this story.
LibraryThing member atimco
The Ordinary Princess is a lovely little story that plays on fairytale conventions before that idea became fashionable. In this tale, M. M. Kaye, known for her sweeping historical novels and exotic mysteries, shows herself not only an able children's author, but also a talented illustrator.

The
Show More
Ordinary Princess tells the story of the seventh daughter of King Hulderbrand and Queen Rodehesia. Of course all princesses are blonde, beautiful, and accomplished, but a seventh princess must be even more so (the youngest princess is always the prettiest, in all the stories). At the christening of Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, all the fairies bestow on her all the usual gifts of Health and Charm and Beauty and Wit, except the last fairy — the grumpy Fairy Crustacea. Her gift? "You shall be ORDINARY!" And so it was. The beautiful blonde hair turned mousy brown, the happily placid child began screaming like any ordinary baby would, and Phantasmorania had to resign itself to an outstandingly average seventh princess.

Amy, as she became known, grew up so exceedingly ordinary that all her princely suitors left abruptly after meeting her. Amy didn't mind; she often slipped out of the palace to roam the forest and forget her mother's efforts to fade her freckles and curl her hair. One day Amy learns of a plan to lock her in a tower besieged by a dragon so that some noble knight would have to rescue her (and then, of course, marry her). Amy runs away and finds a whole new life in another kingdom, where she meets a charming man-of-all-work at the castle. But despite her ordinariness, Amy's still a princess... how can they ever be together?

Kaye's authorial voice is humorous, the pacing is perfect, and the illustrations exquisite. The plot's a little predictable, but only because it's been copied so many times since. I loved this story and am coming to regard Kaye as a favorite author. Recommended!
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LibraryThing member WonderlandGrrl
I probably re-read this once a year...a non-traditional fairy tale about being yourself and finding your place in the world
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
One would think this good for tomboys, feminists, etc. However, in the end, (and no this is not a spoiler), Amy has the classic HEA. She gives up most of her freedom to become a queen to a rather sexist young king.

I would have loved this as a child - but I'm glad I didn't read it then. I did read
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fairy tales then - but I didn't dream too much of my own HEA because the tales were so fantastic. This book, being a little more realistic, would have made the idea of losing myself in love to Prince Charming seem more attainable. And I would have focused my efforts on finding my prince rather than on developing my own self.

So, in other words, I would have become more like the perfect princesses, in that I would have become more vapid and vain. And, for fear of other little girls reacting that way, I cannot recommend this to them.

So, to be fair, I should not give this four stars. But I will anyway, because now that I'm grown I was able to just plain enjoy the sweet story. And the illustrations (by the author!) are a delight.

Upon yet another reread, two years after this review, with a casual reread sometime last year:


Found in a charity shop, so reread again. Didn't know this as a child, but I've read it at least three times as an adult to try to make it up to young me. Reminds me a bit of The 13 Clocks and Many Moons by James Thurber, or The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame or even The Light Princess by [George MacDonald... if you like any in my list here, read the others too....

(Apparently I wasn't disturbed by the HEA this time - I think it's because I misinterpreted the first time - these two *will* be able to stay true to their inner natures, and Amy will not have to become ladylike, despite them both being responsible royals.)
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Pages

128

Rating

(376 ratings; 4.3)
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