Katie Reads: Once Upon a Cruise

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Ainsley never wanted to spend her summer on a fairy tale cruise–especially since, instead of lounging by the pool, she’s running around the ship doing favor after favor for her cruise director mom.

Things aren’t all bad–it’s good to see her mom acting confident again after the divorce, and she’s learning a lot about obscure German fairy tales and how to fold towels into entertaining shapes for little kids (um, yay?). There’s also a guy who’s super cute, even in a dorky dwarf costume–if only Ainsley could get Prince Handsome to stop babbling about himself long enough for her to say more than ‘hi’ to the cute dwarf!

But once the cruise starts, things start to go wrong: the laundry turns pink, the kitchen runs out of food, the guy playing the Pig King is always in Ainsley’s hair, and her mom expects her to be in a hundred places all at once. Is this fairy tale cruise under a wicked curse? Or can Ainsley stand up for herself and make the cruise end happily ever after?

Question: Will I ever stop reading kid’s books?

Answer: Nah.

I’ve read a couple books in Scholastic’s “Wish” brand, and they’re cute, fluffy stories for upper elementary and middle grades students featuring plucky girls, first crushes, and solving your problems with integrity! Basically they are like reading cotton candy and I love it. I haven’t gone wrong with a book under this brand yet, so I picked this one up on a whim. The first paragraph is the main character complaining because everyone thinks that their cruise is the Disney Cruise when it’s really a generic fairy tale character cruise. So basically it mentioned Disney and I had to read it.

I really enjoyed this book. While the ship is not a Disney cruise, there were a lot of moments I empathized with from my time at Disney and from hearing from friends who did work on a Disney Cruise. Kids screaming and running around, parents thinking they’re entitled to just ditch their children because they paid a lot of money, kids peeing on people. Oh yeah, all of those things ring bells. Also, it was funny reading about all the alternate names the cruise was using for the fairy tale characters to avoid any possible lawsuits by Disney. “No that’s not Cinderella, it’s Ashenputtel!” “Jack and the Celery Stalk!” As the main character points out, Disney doesn’t own the rights to the character of Cinderella, but a lot of smaller businesses do act carefully to avoid getting sued. It was just a hilarious running gag.

Like the other Wish books I’ve read, this one did have a more complex subplot. In this one, it was that Ainsley is dealing with her mom’s negative reaction to a divorce, and having to be a crutch for her mother emotionally and in solving her mother’s job struggles. I really like that these books weave in a slightly deeper plot line along with the lighter main story line. Kids are often put in difficult situations, so exploring some of these in books is important. That said, books that only deal in darkness can get too heavy/ preachy/ dull for kids. A blend like this is better.

My suggestion for anyone older than middle school age reading this book: pretend that Ainsley and the other teens are actually 17/ 18. The one major break in my suspension fo disbelief with this book was that Ainsley is supposed to be 12 and is somehow legally working on a cruise ship. I could buy it if Ainsley’s only role on the ship was her small acting part in the theatre performances, but she has lots of jobs on board the ship (as someone on a cruise ship would – there’s limited space so everyone on the staff needs to serve multiple purposes). To her credit, the author does give an explanation that the cruise was willing to hire people over 16, hence why there are so many teenagers. But also child labor laws are a thing. I bought the older teenagers working on the ship as a summer job, but Ainsley is supposed to be 12. So my advice, pretend that Ainsley and all the teens are 17/ 18.

Stay magical readers!

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