A twisty-turny fantasy romp, with heart, humour, do-it-yourself projects and a singing dragon.
Two days ago, Mum-Queen and Dad-King happily flew off in the Wing-Thing that Princess Shona, the Fix-it Princess, had made them. Shona hasn’t sighted them since. And that’s a worry.
But Shona is a princess with a Can-Do attitude. After all, she isn’t called the Fix-it Princess for nothing. She is great at solving problems. Surely, the Fix-it Princess can work out a way to find a Wing-Thing and a pair of missing parents. Surely …
Award-winning South Australian author Janeen Brian first had the idea for The Fix-it Princess 20 years ago. At the recent launch of this sweet and funny royal adventure, she explained how it was one of those stories that she just couldn’t let go of. And I’m so glad she didn’t!
At first, Janeen had just one scene and two characters. Over the years, the scenes grew and characters evolved, until she had a potential story for middle-grade. She persisted with the idea and in the end was able to collaborate with talented illustrator Cherie Dignam, whose quirky black and white illustrations help to bring this story to life. The result is a magical tale that is uncomplicated due to its close focus on Shona and Dragon, with just a handful of additional characters, including Dad-King’s old farting horse, Wildfire, and 15 erratic but good egg-laying chickens.
A shorter middle-grade book, (which kids are crying out for in this age group), it’s an easy read and takes you along on the adventures with Princess Shona as she tries to find her parents – Mum-Queen and Dad-King. Princess Shona is known as the Fix-it Princess because she is always coming up with ideas to solve problems, fix things, and create new and interesting inventions, like the Wing-Thing she gave her parents for their birthdays, which happen to be on the same day.
Princess Shona is known for rushing things and not thinking them through, meaning that her inventions and ideas often go wrong! Sadly, something went wrong with her parents’ flight in the Wing-Thing and what was supposed to be a day of celebration and joy, has ended up as a huge problem for Princess Shona to solve. Where are her parents?
Counting off the days since they went missing, she begins with confidence and positivity in her quest, but when she can’t even make the drawbridge stay open and nobody in the market or the town appears to have seen her parents, she is quickly thrown into a spin.
Until she meets Dragon.
Unlike any other dragon you have ever met, this sweet-singing, bell-tinkling creature will steal your heart. Their relationship quickly builds into something very special and Janeen uses her great skill to bring forward the range of emotions and worries both Dragon and Princess Shona are experiencing, creating a beautiful warmth in the narrative. Humour is also woven throughout, some of it slapstick and some of it subtle, such as the references to people and animal reactions when Princess Shona sings!
As I read this book, I was transported to a medieval time and place, where gentle dragons could dwell and princesses could be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do – with a little help from their friends. There are elements of science and maths and even maps and orienteering. Princess Shona uses her brain, her resilience and her self-belief, to do what is needed in her quest.
But she definitely doesn’t do it alone.
Even though Dragon has not flown for many years and even though it’s scary and hard and exhausting, he cares greatly for Princess Shona and selflessly puts his own fears and safety aside, as these two unlikely friends work together to bring the story to a lovely end.
There are themes of self-belief and courage and friendship, as well as a strong message about never giving up, even when things go wrong, which is precisely what Janeen Brian did with her journey to bring this story to life.
As an adult, I loved reading this story. It made me laugh and smile and I had lots of enjoyment in the relationship between Princess Shona and Dragon. It is recommended for independent, lower middle-grade readers, ages 7 – 12. Would also make a great read-aloud story in class. Teacher notes are available here