It's quite a few years since I read one of the Princess Ellie books. This is the latest, and it's an object lesson in how to get a nuanced story for the younger reader into 90 pages. Princess Ellie, because she's a princess, has to do things in a certain way. There are no gymkhanas for her, because the photographers and press who would flock round the moment they knew she was there would wreck it for everyone else. She has lessons on her own with the Royal Governess, and dinner is something you dress up for. Every day.
Besides her ponies, there's one person who makes all this bearable for Ellie: her best friend Kate. Kate is the grand daughter of the palace cook, and lives with her grandparents because her parents are often away working. And then they come back, with the news that they're going to send Kate to boarding school.
Both girls are horrified - Ellie will have to go back to doing things on her own, and Kate doesn't want to leave everything she knows. For Ellie, life will be just her, and Miss Stringle the Royal Governess and Meg the groom, but only as long as Meg's not too busy. Ellie casts about desperately for solutions, but just when she thinks she's found one Kate turns everything on its head.
I liked the way this story works on so many levels: it's a lovely story of friendship, but also about how privilege can be a gilded cage, and how tradition can hamstring you as well as protect you.
Princess Ellie and the Perfect Plan is a satisfying story with plenty of authentic, and at times exciting, pony content for the young reader, and plenty for the older reader to think about too. It's another triumph for Diana Kimpton.
Thank you to Usborne for sending me a copy of this book.
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Diana Kimpton - Princess Ellie's Perfect Plan (Pony-Mad Princess 10)
Usborne, 2014, £4.99, paperback, £1.71 Kindle, £1.99 Kobo
Age of main character: 9?
Themes: friendship, new schools
Diana Kimpton's website