Harriet Hamsterbone is different from the other princesses in the rodent realm. She’s not good at sighing and looking ethereal in front of guests; she prefers to care for her riding quail, Mumfrey, instead of attending deportment lessons. One day, Harriet’s parents tell her about the curse that a rat placed on her at birth, dooming her to “prick her finger on a hamster wheel and fall into a sleep-like death” on her twelfth birthday. But Harriet is ecstatic—that means she is invincible until she’s twelve! And so, she goes on a two-year adventure with Mumfrey—fighting monsters, saving princesses, and participating in jousts—until her twelfth birthday. The curse then activates in an unanticipated fashion.
Harriet the Invincible uses inspiration from fairy tales to create a wacky, action-packed story that will have readers eagerly turning the pages. When Harriet’s curse backfires on the castle guests, workers, and her parents, Harriet is determined to break the curse, lest neighboring kingdoms snatch the land in her parent’s absence. As she travels the realm to find someone to help her, she must rely on her smarts to solve problems. Ratshade, the rat who cursed Harriet, is more comical than scary, and readers will enjoy reading about how Harriet eventually uses her wits to defeat Ratshade.
On her travels, Harriet convinces Wilbur, a prince, to end the curse. The prince complains that he does not want to break the curse or marry Harriet. To him, “There is entirely too much kissing involved in this curse.” He becomes more confident, inspired by Harriet’s forwardness to end the curse, but still drags his feet, adding to the strangeness of the story. Readers will enjoy the humor of the story and how Harriet breaks the curse without her invincibility.
Purple and white illustrations add to the wackiness of the book. Drawings with dialogue help break up the text and keep the action moving. Harriet the Invincible shows the value of teamwork and will engage even the most reluctant readers. Harriet the Invincible is the first book in the Hamster Princess Series but can be enjoyed as a standalone book. Younger readers who enjoy Harriet the Invincible may also want to try the Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale.
- Harriet’s deportment teacher tried to make her walk around with a book on her head to improve her posture. Harriet stuffed “a book. . . in his mouth” because she didn’t want to complete the exercise.
- During her two-year trip, Harriet fights Ogrecat, an ogre with cat-like qualities. “The Ogrecat flung [Harriet] off with a wild shake of his arms.” Harriet recovered with a “reverse one-handed cartwheel (the other hand was holding the sword).” Then, Harriet “brought the hilt of her sword down on his toes.” The fight is detailed in three pages.
- When her mother wakes her up to meet the royal court, Harriet drops her “sword on her own foot.”
- Harriet defends herself against Ratshade, the god-mouse that cursed her to sleep when she pricked her finger on the hamster wheel. “Harriet whipped her around and around and charged toward the hamster wheel.” Before Ratshade could get another hit in their fight, “Harriet slammed [Ratshade] into the hamster wheel, hard enough to give the wicked fairy a shoulder full of splinters. The curse took. . . but it was the wrong person.” This part of the scene is described over three pages.
- After Wilbur breaks the curse, Ratshade and Harriet fight. “Ratshade’s spell hit [Harriet] before she could make it ten feet. It felt like somebody clubbed her in the back of her knees.” Next, Ratshade cast a spell that made two of a hydra’s heads crash together, then “two more tied themselves together in a knot.” This scene lasts for two pages.
- Harriet drops her sword, and the prince throws the sword to Harriet while he distracts the wicked god-mouse. Then, Harriet “swung the sword over her head and down in a great cleaving arc. . . aimed for the stump of Ratshade’s tail.” Furious, Ratshade tries to strangle Harriet with her claws. “Ratshade’s monstrous claws were cutting into [Harriet’s] skin and making it hard to breathe. . . Bright spots were starting to form in front of her eyes.” Finally, Harriet clips a magical clothespin onto Ratshade’s nose. While trying to unclip the magical clothespin, “Ratshade tumbled over [Mumfrey’s tail] and landed on her back.” This scene lasts for six pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- The Crone of the Blighted Waste puts “nasty-smelling gunk” on Harriet’s injuries and gave Harriet “a bottle of antiseptic” to continue treating the injuries.
- While writing a letter to her parents, Harriet says “dang” to her riding quail.
- Harriet calls the Orgrecat a “foul beast” and a “monster.”
- After cutting their way through the briars around the castle, Wilbur and Harriet “muttered bad words under their breath.”
- Ratshade curses Harriet on her christening. “When [Harriet] is twelve years old, she shall prick her finger upon a hamster wheel and fall into a sleep like death!”
- Three fairy god-mice modify the curse on Harriet. The oldest god-mouse changed the curse so “when the princess falls asleep, she shall not need either food or drink.” The middle god-mouse changed the curse so that “at the moment it takes effect, enormous thorny briars shall grow around the princess’s tower so no one can get in.” The youngest god-mouse changed the curse so “the kiss of a prince” will wake Harriet up.
- When the curse activates on Ratshade, Harriet “felt [the curse] take, a great wash of cold air that ruffled her fur and pinned her ears back. . . Sparks arced and cracked over the rat’s fur and between her whiskers. . . The cold wind wrapped around them once, twice, three times–and the third time. . .then there was silence.” The curse had spread to the rest of the castle grounds, and except for Harriet, the hamsters around the castle were asleep.
- Later, the Crone of the Blighted Waste makes the “modifications of the curse [take] effect. . . none of [Harriet’s] people will have to eat or drink while they are asleep, and the brambles seem to have grown around the entire palace quite nicely.”
- Wilbur, a prince, was cursed to remain on a glass mountain until someone arrived to get him. “Prince Wilbur was wearing a hand-me-down christening gown. . . when the wicked fairy showed up, she thought he was a princess, and… well…”
- After Wilbur broke the curse on Ratshade, the “pile of ropes exploded.” Ratshade said spells “that make the ropes whip off her like frightened snakes.” There were no ills effects from either spell.
by Jemima Cooke