With the release of Disney’s new Cinderella movie, I am anticipating lots of young library patrons looking for princess books. The books are easy to identify since most of the covers are pink, but the daily request for “princess stories” can be trickier than you might expect.
First, I want to protect everyone’s (boys and girls) right to be a princess if they want to – most of us have days where a pink sparkly book is just what the doctor ordered, and I have checked out lots of pink books to little boys. Then there is the Disney dilemma. I try to keep the school library a relatively commercial-free zone. Star Wars, Frozen, and Disney princess books seem to be available everywhere, including the grocery store, so the school library is one place where kids are not viewed as consumers. There are a few exceptions to this rule – the LEGO Ideas Book comes to mind, but so far no books about Elsa or Anna. The other piece of this is a commitment to growing slowly. I am bothered by “beauty treatments” for young girls and the damaging representations of femininity that young girls are exposed to.
Admittedly, when kids ask us for princess books, you can sense their disappointment that we don’t have the Disney books. But they are quickly won over when they see our collection of books about non-Disney royalty.
So if you have a little princess at home and want an alternative to the Disney marketing juggernaut, here are ten of my favorite princess books. Each of them have wonderful characters and positive messages about being yourself.
The Duchess of Whimsy by Randall de Seve and Peter de Seve (A celebration of individuality by husband and wife team. Peter de Seve is a New Yorker artist and his distinctive style adds to the “whimsy” of this book about a Duchess and an Earl who find that opposites do attract!)
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen (not really a story, but a fun rhyming book which explains that princesses can be muddy, use power tools, and wear overalls.)
Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated by Florence Parry Heide (This “uplifting” story could be my favorite princess book. Princess Hyacinth floats. No explanation – she just does. To prevent her from floating away, she is weighted down by jewels and an extra heavy crown. One day, curious about the outside world, Princess Hyacinth takes precautions and goes outside where she meets….a balloon man and a boy with a kite!)
Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer (No princess collection is complete without Olivia – who, in this installment, thinks she is having an “identity crisis” because everyone at school wants to be a princess – but her. “Why is it always a pink princess?” Olivia asks. “Why not an Indian princess 0r a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China?”)
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale (An early reader chapter book that I can’t keep on our shelves. Princess Magnolia eats her scone properly when she’s with Duchess Wigtower, but when the monsters from Monster Land appear, Magnolia turns into the Princess in Black!)
Princess Pistachio by Marie-Louise Gay (A brand new book – and first in a series – by the Canadian writer and illustrator. Gay’s story centers on a little girl named Pistachio (awesome name!) who is convinced she is a real princess. “All her life, Pistachio believed that her real parents were the king and queen of a magnificent kingdom. She had found the kingdom on her map of the world.” What child hasn’t had that thought run through their mind!)
Princess Sparkle-Heart Gets a Makeover by Josh Schneider (Amelia is devoted to her dog until she gets Princess Sparkle-Heart and she switches allegiance to her doll. The dog does not take this lying down and it isn’t long before Princess Sparkle-Heart is “accidentally” shredded. Mom comes to the rescue with her sewing kit and although the doll doesn’t look anything like the original, Amelia’s creativity and love for Princess Sparkle-Heart shines through.)
Princess Posey by Stephanie Greene (This series of early chapter books about Posey and her friends in the first book is spot-on about the social dynamics of 1st and 2nd graders. In Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade, Posey is nervous about going to school without her tutu.)
Of course, no princess collection is complete without Cinderella – and there are hundreds of versions from all over the world. Here are two favorites:
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman (17 retellings in one book! Fleischman blends tales from around the world into a single story. I read this book to kids every year and they love comparing the version they know with the variations in different cultures.
Cinderella – illustrated by Barbara McClintock (There are so many versions of the classic Perrault story, but this one is my favorite. McClintock’s detailed and magical drawings fit the story – just like a glass slipper!)