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Khushboo Shah’s The Fairly Ordinary Princess is anything but ordinary. It is a tremendous reading experience, one that fills you with awe at the author’s powers of imagination. This novella is an Indian version of Alice in Wonderland, with fourteen-year-old Princess Nirzari falling into a book, akin to Alice falling down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland.

The author takes us on a journey across the pages literally and figuratively. Nirzari, who believes she is only an ordinary princess, needs to figure out how to get out of the book. On the way she meets many intriguing and adorable characters, including her feisty grandmother, her parrot Jawaab-e-Haazir, that speaks in rhymes, and a boy, Dabbu, who traps princesses into books.

All the illustrations are done by the author herself. The language is easy to grasp and keeps you hooked from the first page. The wry humor, courtesy of Jawaab-e-Haazir, is delightful and elicits many a chuckle. The text is peppered with short, quirky rhymes.

You have begun using ridiculous worlds just to fit into your rhyme scheme.

It is difficult to keep track of time when one is lost in a book.

I loved how messages are interspersed across the novella. These messages bear a distinct philosophical tone and are quite profound.

You must learn to do what you need to, to afford to do what you love.

I read this line many times because it resonated well with me.

There is so much mastering to do

Relationships take the lion’s share

And then, there is working on YOU

These are inspirational messages that can motivate young readers, especially little girls.

Making castles in the air is the easiest thing. But they are nothing. You can build all you want in the real world.

After your eyes have rained, there is a rainbow in your heart.

A powder that thickens everything from hair to spells, a yarn-weaving spider, a boy who paints landscapes and makes them come alive, a bookmark that descends from the sky marking the end of an episode; the list is endless, and any fantasy reader’s delight. What I loved the most is the gradual evolution of Nirzari- she comes into her own and realizes how extraordinary she is. What could be better is perhaps the transition across the chapters, to enhance continuity, and manage the character introductions, as they are many of them.

It was very kind of the author to include my name in the acknowledgments; to be associated with a work of this caliber is deeply humbling. Khushboo, I hope one day you will make this into a full-fledged novel.

In summary, this is such a delightful read; the kind of book that leaves a smile on your face reminding you of why you want to read or write in the first place. Children will love it, and so will adults. Go, grab a copy now!

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