Written by Kristin Kladstrup
Princess Adela wishes everyone would stop treating her like, well, a princess. She would rather dirty her hands in the garden than learn how to embroider or waltz or drink tea. As Queen Cecile nags her to pretty herself so she can land a suitor, Adela dreams of traveling the world to collect and study exotic plants. So when her friend, Garth, receives an invitation to review the enchanted garden of the mysterious Lady Hortensia, Adela worms her way into the party.
The rumors are true: Hortensia’s garden is indeed magical. Colorful spring and summer flowers burst in full bloom even though it’s October! But as Adela tours the grounds on her own she makes an astonishing discovery. Hortensia has been turning all the beautiful female guests into flowers and pocketing the gems and jewels they leave behind. Then she casts a spell on the handsome male guests, making them swoon over her like lovesick puppies.
Hortensia’s thieving servant, a talking magpie named Krazo, becomes an unlikely ally as Adela tries to figure out a way to escape from this witch’s lair. Krazo believes a secret treasure buried underneath an attacking rose tree could break Hortensia’s spell, but she catches Adela first and transforms her into a weedy dandelion to be clipped and tossed into the rubbish heap. Krazo rescues her and transforms back into the young man he once was. Adela and Krazo fall in love and, in an untraditional fairy-tale twist, they do not rush to get married, but instead choose to travel the world together.
Fifth grade girls will appreciate Princess Adela, who stays true to her convictions despite how others think she is supposed to behave. Her down-to-earth nature and self-reliance makes her easy to route for and a good role model for this age group. Most of the characters in the story are in their late teens, but the romance scenes are modest (hand holding, swooning) and appropriate for a fifth grade reading level. With themes of self-esteem and beauty on the inside, readers who enjoy magic, talking animals, light romance, and yes, happy endings won’t be disappointed with Garden Princess.