Chapter 1: The Princess Challenge
Catherine lived with her three sisters and one brother in a two-bedroom apartment on what Jane Dickinson, the meanest girl in Mrs. Jessie’s whole entire second-grade class, called “the sad part of town.”
“Not the bad part,” Jane emphasized as the other students sat drawing pictures of Thanksgiving, “because the bad part of town is where bad things happen. The sad part of town is where nothing happens and nobody is happy, and — ”
And that’s when Mrs. Jessie hushed her and reminded her that “not everyone lives in a mansion like you. And that’s fine.”
But with two days to go before Thanksgiving break, it wasn’t fine. The evil Mr. Ridic, who had a mustache so he could twist it like a villain when he felt like being mean, wouldn’t move his rental vehicles. If they didn’t move, the bus Grandma had ridden couldn’t enter the apartment complex parking lot. And if the bus couldn’t enter, it would have to deposit Grandma and her wheelchair on the large dirt hill outside the apartment complex — not on the sidewalk.
Mr. Ridic twisted his mustache. “I move those vehicles for people who wish to rent them,” he “clarified” for Mom again in the hallway outside his office. “Do you wish to rent them?”
Mom swallowed hard and shook her head. “I just think the people who ride the bus deserve — ”
“For the third time in a row, nobody deserves anything,” Mr. Ridic interrupted.
He spun around, marched back into his office, and slammed the door in her face — even though she was several feet away from it.
Daddy muttered something about “doing something to that man’s legs so he understands how hard it is to roll a wheelchair up a dirt hill,” but he and Mom agreed that it was still a bad idea.
So for the third year in a row, they didn’t have Thanksgiving with Grandma. For the third year in a row, she had to go back to her assisted living facility clear on the other side of town. And Catherine wasn’t thankful for that, and she didn’t pretend she was. She wanted to do a twenty-four hour “mad at Mr. Ridic” challenge, like the challenges Princess Magica had done. But Mom said that was a bad idea because “he might raise our rent, and we already can’t afford it — but don’t worry about it.”
So instead, Catherine just slumped back to her corner of the bedroom and watched Princess Magica videos until —
A notification! Princess Magica had uploaded a new video, called “The Princess Challenge.”
In it, the beautiful, teal-clad Princess Consort Madeline appeared alongside the fabulous Princess Magica — in her rainbow jeweled tiara and pink makeup and rose cheeks and rainbow hair and rainbow gown and purple-and-pink-striped necklace and pink-and-blue fingernails with hearts and rainbow rings and rainbow glass slippers and orange-and-rainbow jeweled purse — who announced that “one of you is going to become my sister and eventually inherit the Magica throne.”
Catherine squealed with delight.
“Here’s what to do,” Princess Magica continued. “Buy all eleven Princess Magica Deluxe items. It doesn’t matter if you already had the full set. You need all new items because in each of the new items, you’ll find a piece of a puzzle. Complete the puzzle and you’ll get to come to The Land of Magica — where, as you know, I am the princess. But I kind of don’t want to inherit the throne, and Queen Magica … can’t have more kids. So we need a new princess! So buy the carriage and horse and the suitcase and the makeup kit and the jewelry box with purse and the hot cocoa machine and the snowball fight machine and the pillow and blanket Magica dream surprise and the castle and the blue and black and teal and pink skateboard and the princess outfit and of course the backpack with books detailing the entire magical history of the Magica family and kingdom. And check the link in the comments for more information.”
Catherine pouted with dismay, as she often did. Mom would never buy her all of those things. Maybe the makeup kit, for Christmas. But not two of them, and definitely not all eleven. They cost a whole five hundred and ninety-three dollars and forty-three cents — Catherine had added them all up — and Mom said that was “way too much money for a bunch of molded plastic. If you like them so much, we can cut out pieces of cardboard and you can color them to match.”
Catherine insisted that cardboard cut-outs were “not the same thing.” But when she told Mom and Daddy and everyone about the challenge, Mom said they still weren’t going to “spend more money on toys than they’re worth. And I’m sorry if that means you don’t get to go to this supposed Kingdom of Magica, or however the contest works.”
“How does the contest work?” Daddy asked. Catherine showed him where to click, and he did.
Buy NEW Princess Magica Deluxe puzzle piece-bearing items (carriage, suitcase, makeup kit, jewelry box, hot cocoa machine, snowball fight machine, pillow/blanket, castle, skateboard, princess outfit, backpack) until you find eleven matching puzzle pieces.
Complete the puzzle and text the correct answer to 12345.
With a grown-up’s help, write an essay about: your favorite thing about Princess Magica, your favorite thing about yourself, the biggest problem you see with being a princess and anything else you think the Magica Royal Family should know.”
Catherine pouted. “It’s no fair! We can’t win. I don’t want to try.” So Daddy held her until she was calm again, then helped her write about her favorite thing — how colorful and kind Princess Magica was. And her favorite thing about herself was how much she liked to pretend to be a princess. The biggest problem she saw with being a princess was “where to park the carriage. Because I bet it’s too big to get between Mr. Ridic’s buses, and he’s mean and always twisting his mustache and he never moves the buses because we can’t pay.” And she thought the Magica Royal Family should know that as princess, she’d have three princess sisters and a prince brother and they could all rule together.
Daddy saved her essay for “in case your mother and I can figure out a way to enter, but it’s a lot of money.”
Catherine pouted all night until she fell asleep, as she sometimes did.