cover image Shark Princess (Shark Princess #1)

Shark Princess (Shark Princess #1)

Nidhi Chanani. Viking, $12.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-593-46460-1

Who gets to be a princess? That’s the crux of this firmly inclusive, emotionally generous graphic novel by Chanani (Jukebox). Readers are immersed in an undersea cartoon world—luminous in colorist Elizabeth Kramer’s expansive aquatic palette—where Kitana, a whale shark sporting a seashell-and-starfish crown, is the self-declared “first shark princess.” This is not pretend play or a yearning, Kitana tells “best chum” Mack, a shark with a krill allergy: “I don’t want. I am.” But Kitana’s vision of princess-hood is as open as it is unshakable: when Mack finds a gold crown in a sunken ship and offers it as a replacement for Kitana’s fetching homemade affair, Kitana insists that it become Mack’s princess crown instead—even though Mack worries that dangerous teeth and severe allergies are instant disqualifiers. “Shouldn’t we decide who we are?” Kitana says. “This is my story. And yours.” A nominal, briskly paced adventure ensues when the pair gets trapped in the rotting shipwreck and rescued thanks to Mack’s propulsive allergic sneeze, but it’s Mack’s realization that expression and identity aren’t about rules or permission that make this series starter sparkle. Ages 5–7. (Sept.)