Patricia C. Wrede was probably one of the first authors whose name I remembered as a child. I remember reading and loving Dealing with Dragons in what must have been 3rd or 4th grade, when the first Scholastic paperback version came out.
After reading it once, I lost it and didn’t find it again until 6th grade, when I carefully taped in a bookplate so that I would never lose it again. There was no point, though, since I never loaned it out to anyone because I was so afraid I would never see it again.
I read it over and over that year, and then at least once a year after that until I went to college. I distinctly remember looking up the definition of the word “disposition” from this book and actually remembering it because I had read it so many times (as opposed to other words that I looked up and promptly forgot).
It was and still is one of my favorite books, and Patricia C. Wrede is still one of my favorite authors (I read her blog every week). I had mentioned in an earlier post that I love fairy tale retellings. For Dealing with Dragons and the rest of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (the name of the quartet), Wrede manages to put in lots of references to fairy tales from “The Frog Prince” to “Sleeping Beauty.” And that’s just in the first chapter.
But what I really love about this book is that the main character, Cimorene, is not a typical princess or a typical heroine. She’s smart, practical, and funny, and she was probably one of my earliest role models (although I didn’t notice at the time). Plus, she wasn’t Asian, but she had black hair in a time when all the other girls I read about had blond or brown hair.
This was the first book I thought of when my boss asked me to do a book club with my (then 4th/5th grade) students. The girls loved it, and the boys were okay reading it, but the biggest problem in teaching the book was the vocabulary. I was at the stage where I was encouraging my students to look up all the words they didn’t know, and Wrede does not write down to kids. I had one overachieving student come in with over a hundred vocabulary words (and sentences!) one week. I love this book, but I would probably not choose to teach it again.
I will recommend it (and its sequels) to any girl that comes my way, though. Pre-teen (and up) girls might also like Wrede’s Regency fantasy books: Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Apprentice (now reprinted together as A Matter of Magic) and The Sorcery and Cecelia series by Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter D.