In the kingdom of Eliora, eleven year old Darling Dimple is an orphaned servant in Princess Mariposa’s castle, a lowly pot scrubber in the under-cellar of the castle kitchens. She dreams of being a mighty sailor or a great enchantress ― and since she lives in a magic-filled castle built by dragons, surely adventures will come her way! But her daydreams lead to trouble with the castle’s Supreme Scrubstress, who doesn’t take kindly to being splashed with dirty brown dishwater when Darling and her friends are fooling around one day. So when the Wardrobe Mistress comes downstairs looking for a new girl to help press the Princess’s linens, and the Supreme Scrubstress finds out that it’s “hard work that requires close attention,” she gleefully volunteers Darling.
Darling’s new job as Under-presser turns out not to be such a punishment: she’s an upstairs servant rather than a belowstairs one, living in a much nicer room and helping take care of Princess Mariposa’s beautiful things. At first it seems the main problem is that some of the other servant girls play mean-spirited tricks on Darling … but when you have magical mice helping with your problems, it’s not so bad. Best of all, Darling discovers a closet in Princess Mariposa’s rooms filled with one hundred lovely old princess dresses that magically disguise her as someone else in the kingdom.
But the castle’s magic has something more in mind for Darling than just fun adventures. When she discovers a nefarious plot to betray the Princess and release the stone dragons on the castle’s roof from their enchantment, it will take magic, courage and a little help from some friends to protect the Princess and the kingdom!
Susan Maupin Schmid’s If the Magic Fits is a delightful middle grade fantasy, full of beautiful magical dresses, mythical beasts, and other enchantments, and spiced with a little mystery. The pace is brisk, with Darling quickly propelled from one adventurous outing to the next. Her excursions wearing the magical dresses are always dangerous, since Darling doesn’t have the knowledge or mannerisms of the ladies who she’s disguised as. Darling is an intrepid main character who grows through her experiences, and learns about the importance of loyalty and friends. Even the princess, who is surrounded by princes and noblemen vying for her hand, discovers something about true friendship and forgiveness.
I give If the Magic Fits a strong but qualified recommendation: Most young girls in the 8-14 age range will be enchanted by this fantasy with elegant, magical dresses as one of the main features of its plot. I’m limiting my recommendation of it primarily to that group, along with older readers who delight in children’s fantasies. If you happen to be, or know, a girl who would love the idea of a closet filled with magical dresses and a castle brimming with exciting adventures, If the Magic Fits is just the ticket and won’t disappoint.