Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams, illustrated by Shadra Strickland. Turner, 2012. (Advance Review Copy). This is a fun twist on the fairy princess story. B. B. Bright, Princess of Light, is living on Bee Isle, floating in "Bright World" between "Other World" and "Raven World", where her parents used to be King and Queen until they got killed in a war. B. B. is cared for by three Godmothers who were recruited from Other World by her mother the Queen. B. B. is being tutored so she can pass the Official Princess Test and become a true Royal. They keep bees on the island, and live a very pleasant, but slightly boring life. B. B. wants a boyfriend, a true best friend, and a little excitement.
The story heats up when she decides on her 13th birthday to take a secret trip across the desert in the middle of the island to explore the East side where there is rummored to be an angry bear and a tower where her mother used to live. What B. B. discovers on the other side of the island makes for an exciting, romantic, enchanting tale.
The story is written in letters to her diary, and charmingly illustrated by Strickland's line drawings. I especially like the map of the island, which really helped me orient myself in the story. I also love the drawing of the quilt made by the God-mommies for B. B.'s birthday. The squares are illustrated with appliques that are symbolic for the Princess and key to solving her mystery. There are little bees and story-related sketches or doodles throughout the book, giving an authentic presentation. I think this book is really going to appeal to tween girls who spend a lot of time dreaming and scheming and gazing out windows. Kind of like the girl I was...
The one thing I didn't really go for in this book is how unbelievably sophisticated B. B. is in developing her own candle making business, by which she immediately makes a fine profit shipping them to Other World. She does a tiny bit of research and decides to donate all the profits to humanitarian organizations. Perhaps a princess would naturally fall into this line of work but I don't see myself as a real girl believing it would work like that. I dunno, maybe as a dreamer I was like that... Come to think of it when I was 12 I did make candles and tried to sell them in my father's bookstore. I think I made about $1.25 total. Anyway, this is a fun book! Nominated for a Cybils award in MG Fantasy.