Last month, comic writer Greg Pak posted a poem on his website called The Biggest Lie. The poem reads:
The biggest lie
In every story I’ve ever told
Is that it ends
The Princess Who Saved Herself was a collaboration between Greg Pak and musical artist Jonathan Coulton to adapt Coulton’s song of the same name into a graphic novel for young readers (4th-7th grade ish). It’s illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, made bright and vibrant by Jessica Kholinne, and lettered by Simon Bowland.
The main conflict of that first book was a young princess playing her out-of-tune electric guitar at all hours of the day and the queen casting spells and sending a giant bee and a dragon to stop her. However, this departs from a more traditional fairy tale as the princess and queen managed to put aside their differences; The queen tuned the princess’ guitar, and the bee, dragon, princess, and queen became a rock band. However, as you might guess from Pak’s poem being included here and/or the existence of this review, that wasn’t the end of the story!
In The Princess Who Saved Her Friends, we learn that there is still conflict between the princess and the queen when they fundamentally disagree on how to handle the musically untalented dragon in their band when eyeing an upcoming rock band competition. Pak and Coulton’s follow-up story focuses on interpersonal conflict with healthy ways to approach difficult conversations, much like the first story. However, in the original book, the Princess seemed perfectly happy to play an out-of-tune guitar, but now some additional questions are raised: Why do we pursue artistic endeavors? If someone has the option to produce more skillful art, should they take it? What sacrifices are okay to make to do so? Tuning a guitar is easy, but should you give up everything important to you to pursue an artistic dream?
Despite tackling some difficult topics that even adults struggle with, this book is communicated at a level that younger kids will be able to follow, with lively colors from Jessica Kholinne and Triona Farrell and cute art by Takeshi Miyazawa. The characters are extremely expressive, and the dragon, snake, and bee would all make for adorable plushies. (High key, if this happens, please shout this from the rooftops because I want one, too!) The two books are both kind of extended poems meant to be read in a rhyming cadence, and Simon Bowland does a good job of directing the reader where to go next and flagging what is narrative vs words spoken by the characters.