Book Review: The First Adventures of Princess Peony, by Nette Hilton

Princess Peony is not really a princess, but she does have a pet dragon, which means she’s kind of like a princess. She must keep an evil troll (her brother) from trying to steal her dragon (dog) and avoid being eaten by a bear, which is really hard work.

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Princess Peony can be enjoyed by kids from five and up reading by themselves, although younger children will enjoy following along when a grown up reads with them. Nette Hilton and Lucinda Gifford, well respected and established writer and illustrator respectively, have produced a great story which makes the imagination work.

Things are not always as they seem in Princess Peony’s kingdom. For example, her dragon Totts – ‘That’s T.O.T.T.S’ – looks remarkably similar to a dog. But who I am to judge, I don’t remember when I last saw a dragon close up! And although a Princess is the main character, it’s also a good book for boys as there is also a Prince and, possibly, bears, as well as Totts the dragon.

Princess Peony has very firm ideas on what a Princess likes, such as being obeyed, but quickly realises that this can conflict with what dragons like. However, Princesses do not lose their temper but just yell in a very loud voice! This doesn’t always have the desired effect but Princess Peony is very smart and she has other tricks up her sleeve too.

The illustrations are wonderfully drawn in a ‘childlike’ style which takes real skill especially as Gifford has kept to shades of grey and pink only. Her limited palette works well in emphasising the expressions of the characters and I especially enjoyed the extra explanatory little sketches showing what a rude troll or a sleeping dragon looks like.

Princess Peony shares the characteristic of all good children’s books in that it can be read on at least two levels and I bet the kids will quickly spot the moral(s) of the tale. If your young reader wants to play at being royalty then there are lots of tips and tricks in the story. I don’t want to spoil the fun for readers but there is even a checklist of the essentials for becoming a True Princess, the final item of which is useful for all of us – smiles!

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Rating out of 10:  9

Distributed by: Walker Books
Released: November 2018
RRP: $19.99

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