I’ve come to understand that Shannon Hale writes books that let children feel seen, while also reminding parents of what it was like to be that age. Ironically, in Diana: Princess of the Amazons, a young Diana doesn’t feel seen at all because all of the adults are too busy for her. Being seen is a constant theme in this story, as, in response to her boredom and feelings of neglect, she creates her own friend out of clay. This friend teaches Diana to embrace her invisible status, leading to all kinds of trouble.
Diana: Princess of the Amazons
Shannon and Dean Hale (writer), Lark Pien (colourist), David Sharpe (letterer), Victoria Ying (illustrator)
January 7, 2020
The book opens with a dedication to “Aunty Gal” and “Aunty Linda,” each a Wonder Woman who has inspired her generation of young girls and boys to fight for justice and find strength and honour through love. Aimed at children aged eight to twelve, Diana: Princess of the Amazons cuts no corners when it comes to depicting what it feels like to be a child at that age. No longer completely reliant on adults for every day care, but not quite ready for independence. The adults trust that they have instilled the rules well enough that Diana can function on her own safely, but the lack of attention leads to feelings of neglect and, soon enough, acting out — and worse.
Diana: Princess of the Amazons leads us through Diana running through the city of Themyscira and through the surrounding forests and waters, frolicking with the various animals. Soft blue skies, luscious green fields and forests, and a sprawling city come to life through Victoria Ying’s illustrations and Lark Pien’s colours. Bright, expressive faces and simple lines and panel structure and make for a comfortable reading experience, along with David Sharpe’s clean lettering.
Diana is a ball of energy that only slows whens she reaches a hall in the palace where images of the Amazons are mounted, including many paintings involving her in younger years. She notes sadly that there are no paintings of her now, compared to when she was little and everyone doted on her. This sets the tone as she moves on to try to find someone to play slapball with her. Only child syndrome means something else entirely when there are absolutely no other children for her to play with. Even more frustrating, the adults now admonish her for not being good enough, or so she feels. She can’t mould clay well enough. She gets in the way. And what used to be behavour that was considered cute and worthy of high praise and joy is now troublesome and worthy of punishment. She is surrounded by aunties who are no longer fun and will tell on her or berate her when she doesn’t live up to the high standards of Amazonian ways.
As many children do during this phase in her life, Diana finds a friend — or rather, creates one out of clay, just as her mother did with her. She’s first shocked to discover that “Mona” has come to life, but quickly comes to love having a companion her own age — even when that companion starts to tempt her into doing things she knows are wrong. Carefully ensuring they are never seen, Mona plays on the idea of children’s imaginary friends, though Diana doesn’t go so far as blaming the trickery and mishaps on Mona — only because they never get caught, which entices Diana to let Mona lead her down a more sinister path.
Young readers will learn about consequences and taking responsibility for your actions and mistakes, but Diana: Princess of the Amazons also serves as a reminder to parents that children this age may be more independent, but as much as they are struggling to unleash themselves from adults in order to find their own voice, they still need that guiding hand and to know that they are wanted. They also need responsibilities of their own, suited to their abilities, that will help them feel like they belong and are valued contributors to their home and community. Sometimes parents forget these things because we are so busy with all of our grown up responsibilities, so DC Comics offers a helpful reminder to parents with this promotional poster.
Struggling to find their independence while still needing that helping hand, Diana: Princess of the Amazons is a treasure for young readers and a perfect opportunity for caregivers to reconnect with them.