(Natalya Balnova/For The Washington Post)

The Hero’s Guide
to Saving Your Kingdom

By Christopher Healy

Ages 8 to 12. 436 pages.

Frederic, Gustav, Liam and Duncan are tired of being known by the same simple name: Prince Charming. After all, the fairy tales always mention the girls they rescued: Ella, Rapunzel, Briar Rose and Snow White.

So, when danger threatens their kingdoms, the overlooked princes join forces. Surely this time they will be recognized as important heroes.

The problem: The princes can’t agree on how to be heroic. Frederic is stylish and polite; surly Gustav loves to fight. Liam prefers to work alone, and Duncan is just plain odd.

(Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Although they argue and fuss, the princes begin to realize that their differences actually strengthen the team. Together, they match wits with a “diabolical tween” known as the Bandit King. They combat green trolls that look like a “big angry salad.” They learn to wield their weapons — swords, smooth talk and moldy muskrat steaks — with greater skill.

The princes also must figure out how to deal with the rescued girls. The damsels don’t behave like their sweet fairy-tale selves. Ella wants timid Frederic to be as adventurous as she, and Snow White yearns for a break from chatterbox Duncan. Briar Rose is a spoiled brat.

The witch, unnamed in the Rapunzel story, proves to be the greatest villain of all. She wants to make sure that her name — Zaubera — is remembered forever, so she plans a “huge demented spectacle.” The kingdoms are doomed. What chance do the princes have against her fierce dragon and great balls of magic?

In this funny, twisted fairy tale, you just never know . . . .

You might also like . . .

In Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin,” Liesl Shurtliff’s fairy-tale retelling, a boy discovers he has a talent for turning straw into gold, but that talent is also a curse. Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld is a good pick for younger readers. It’s the funny and silly story of two sisters: One of them dreams about being a princess, and the other wants to battle dragons.

Next week

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

By Firoozeh Dumas. Ages 10 to 13.

An Iranian girl named Zomorod is always switching schools because her father’s job moves him from one place to another. When the family arrives in Newport Beach, California, in the late 1970s, she decides to change her name to Cindy. That new name is just the beginning of her efforts to fit in. But life becomes difficult when Americans are taken hostage in Iran and Cindy’s classmates don’t know what to think of her.

How to join

The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 5 to 14. Children may read some or all of the books on our list. Everyone who is registered will receive a laminated copy of a bookmark designed by Julia Brunetti, 11, of Garrett Park, Maryland. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian. To register, that adult must fill out our form at kidspost.com or send the child’s first and last names, age and address to KidsPost Summer Book Club, The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.