Looking for a fun read for your younger middle schooler? Tae Keller‘s new series Mihi Ever After is a unique new take on traditional fairy tales that questions whether there is a specific “princess type”.
When I started reading Mihi Ever After, I didn’t realize that it was written by the same author of a book I had previously listened to on a road trip with my family. When You Trap a Tiger is a middle grade story which brings traditional Korean tales into a modern setting. It was a slightly creepy but very well told tale.
Mihi Ever After, the first book in Tae Keller’s new series by the same name, focuses more on traditional European fairy tales. In particular, it looks at the ways in which our focus on European princess stories can leave a lot of girls feeling left out. Mihi is a Korean American girl who loves fairy tales. She loves to read them, watch them, imagine herself in them… but her former best friend has recently told her that she doesn’t “fit the princess mold”. Now Mihi has made friends with two other girls who also love princess stories but also don’t fit into the typical idea of what a princess is. Quiet Savannah has no interest in finding a prince or the romance that always seems to go with a princess story. Reese likes to figure out how machines work, which isn’t very princess-like, and the only princess who looks like her was turned into a frog anyway.
Stuck in the school library for recess after trying to climb an apple tree, Mihi meets two other girls who are also inside for recess. Savannah is inside because she just prefers it to the chaos on the playground. Reese was “caught” trying to fix her classroom’s overhead projector and punished for stealing. The three girls become fast friends when they discover a shared love of princess stories. That friendship is quickly tested when the girls are magically transported to a Rainbow world where fairy tales are real. They head out on an adventure that is meant to turn them into princesses. They ultimately discover that fairy tales aren’t all that they seem to be and that sometimes you have to right your own story.
I enjoyed this story well enough. I think that my 11yo would probably enjoy it, but is probably just at the top end of the age group that would like it. It definitely reads younger than something like Percy Jackson. The idea of kids from our world heading into a fantasy land is not a new one, but I think that Tae Keller has brought something fresh to the concept of fairy tale retellings. Rather than giving up on princesses entirely, Mihi comes to think that maybe there is a way for her to become a new sort of princess. In one chapter, Mihi teaches the cook in Sleeping Beauty’s castle the recipe for japchae. I’m hopeful that future books in this series will build on that and bring more new elements into traditional European fairy tales. If the series continues on long enough, I could see the author bringing fairy tales from Asian countries into the magical land she’s created. Perhaps Mihi’s visit with her friends will fuzz the boundaries that seem to separate this specific Rainbow land from other Rainbow lands? There are a lot of possibilities for future stories in this series. I hope that Keller is given the opportunity to put all the ideas she has into published books. If you have a young reader who loves fantasy, I definitely recommend checking out Mihi Ever After