Title: Once Upon a Marigold
Author: Jean Ferris
Length: 272 pgs
Summary: The hook on the front cover of this book reads Part comedy, part love story, part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. This book is actually a young adult fantasy, and I didn’t realize that until I found the book in that section of my local library, but hey. I have loved Ferris ever since I read her Rosie & Raider trilogy (Into the Wind, Song of the Sea, and Weather the Storm). …I can’t believe I remembered the characters and titles without looking them up. Seriously, I read these books when I was thirteen. Anyway, Once Upon a Marigold is about Christian, a little boy who runs away to live with a forest troll, and spends his developmental years roaming the forest and reading every book he can “borrow.” All the while, Christian uses his foster father’s telescope to watch the goings-on in the royal castle across the river, and subsequently, falls in love with the “ugly duckling” Princess Marigold. This is a time when p-mail (aka pidgeon-mail) is modern, when Queen Mab of toothfairy fame is losing control of her business, and when a curse may not be a curse after all.
pg 48 – And that was how their long p-mail correspondence began.
April 19. I’m 17. I’m an Aries. Why did you decide to write to me? – Marigold
You seemed so absorbed in your book. I wanted to know what you were reading. – C
For some reason, he was reluctant to tell her his name. The more anonymous he stayed, the bolder he felt–as if he were someone else, an alternate version of himself, a version who casually corresponded with a princess. A version who couldn’t tell her his own birthday because he didn’t know it.
You can see me? – Marigold
P.S. What does the C stand for?
He thought her first question sounded a bit alarmed, as most people would be if they found out they were being watched. But the fact that she’d added a P.S. meant she was curious about him, which he took as a good sign. He debated a long time about how to answer.
Sometimes I can see you. The C stands for my name.
Why should you read this book?
Because it’s actually pretty funny, and funny is hard to do in books. It starts a little slow, but the characters are vivid, and interesting, and are people I wouldn’t mind knowing in real life. And let me tell you, writing young adult fiction is hard. You have to get the exact amount of detail in there so the reader understands just what you want them to understand, without losing their interest. The plot runs really quickly as soon as Christopher starts to interact with Marigold, and you’ll find yourself skimming just to know what happens next. But don’t do it. Read it thoroughly and enjoy the pacing and narrative voice, and learn something from it. Once Upon a Marigold is great for anyone wanting to learn how to speed up their story, and to make their characters seem vivid (if a little stereotyped for some of the secondary roles).