Princess Dara is no damsel in distress.
In this early reader chapter book based on a Cambodian tale, “The Story of Princess Amaradevi,” the princess Dara is a Renaissance woman with talents in music, writing, painting, law, science and engineering. She meets her match in Rith, a young man who is “also very skilled at planning and drawing.” They work on a project in Dara’s father’s kingdom, and they fall in love and marry. Unfortunately, three conniving ministers in the kingdom find the couple’s surprise plans for a summer palace for the king, and while Dara is away, they falsely label them as “King Rith’s Palace.” The king is fooled by their ruse and banishes Rith. Dara is devastated when she returns and determines to clear her husband’s name. When the three ministers each ask for her hand in marriage, she sees through their pretenses and conspires with her maid, Chenda, to trick them. Drawing upon her engineering skills, she succeeds and presents evidence of their malfeasance to her father, who sends them away and reunites her with Rith. Brightly colored acrylic-and-graphite illustrations reinforce the developing plot and have a naïve quality that suits the folkloric sensibility of the story.
Happily-ever-after with a STEM feminist twist: how very timely. (Early reader. 6-8)