I love fairy tale retellings! Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball is a fun, edgy version of the Brother’s Grimm’s Twelve Dancing Princesses. Young soldier, Galen just finished fighting a war and is returning to a home he’s never known. His parents are long gone so he travels to seek kindness and employment from his Uncle’s family. He has a talent for knitting. Which when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. You are in the army, you want socks or a scarf, you better know how to knit. On the road he encounters a strange old woman who gives him two balls of special yarn and an invisibility cloak. She tells him he will need this when he’s in the palace. Of course he has no idea what she is talking about. His purpose becomes clear as he takes a job working beside his Uncle in the King’s gardens. Strange rumors circle around his twelve daughters. Each morning they leave their room exhausted with their shoes worn through. No one sees them leave and no one hears a peep coming from their rooms. The King becomes desperate. He invites princes from around the world to solve the mystery. Not one succeeds and one by one they all die from terrible accidents. Galen thinks he might know what’s going on and with the help of the old woman’s gifts; he tries to save the princesses.
This story is told from Galen’s male perspective, which makes for an interesting change. George beautifully describes both the underworld and the King’s gardens. I love the way the princesses are not wimpy, instead they help Galen save themselves. I also love that Galen’s knitting is a big part of the plot. This skill is what helps him solve the problem, locking the evil down below.
Some ideas for discussion with teens:
Talk about the differences between the original 12 Dancing Princesses and this retelling.
Talk about how Galen knits. Why does it seem weird that a boy would knit? Talk about how this skill helps him win in the end.
Talk about the stronger princesses, why is this so rare?