5 Children’s Books That Combat Princess Stereotypes
I don't consider myself to be someone who has ever gotten particularly hung up on gender stereotypes. My daughter has loved pink from the beginning of time, and I am fine with that. She has Barbies and cars, tutus and baseball bats. So when her focus on princesses intensified in preschool, I wasn't really concerned.
There are some good things that have come out of it. Her teacher laughs about how the girls at lunch will discuss how princesses use good manners and eat nicely. I'll take that.
But there are, of course, some problems with the fairy tale absolutes. You must be beautiful with long, flowing hair and gowns. And of course, princesses make ALL of the rules.
I have been balancing out our glittery and bedazzled library with some tales that give a different perspective to “happily ever after.” Here are five we've enjoyed in our home that I recommend:
Not All Princesses Dress In Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple
First, check out this cover – It's bold, it's fun, and there's nothing frilly about it. In case you have any doubt about the tone of the book, the opening sums up it up:
Not all princesses dress in pink. Some play in bright red socks that stink, blue team jerseys that don't quite fit, accessorized with a baseball mitt, and a sparkly crown.
The authors walk through unique qualities and strengths of each princesses (who all wear a sparkly crown, gardening, dancing in the rain, and playing sports. I like the fact that the girls are portrayed as regular people AND are all active, too.
When the princesses all arrive at the ball, no one is in a pink gown. There are different designs and dance moves, but they all have fun together.
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
This is a fun and light story about a princess who doesn't want to get married. Whenever suitors arrived, she gave them quests they could not possibly accomplish as a way to turn them down. When a prince was finally able to complete all of her requests, she kisses him – and he turns into a toad.
After that, all of the princes leave her alone and she spends her days happy with her pets.
My daughter, at five, has already asked me if she is required to have babies. While I know she has plenty of years to determine if she wants to be a mother, I am glad to have something in our arsenal that shows that she can choose her own path.
Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle
This book presents princesses as the little girls that are reading the books. They go to school. They do chores. They have picnics. They ride tricycles. I love how it removes the loftiness of the princess mindset, and the close of the book is something of which my daughter never tires – and her brother loves it, too.
Mommy, do princesses seem at all like me? Look inside yourself and see …
The last page in a mirror so she can look at herself with the words next to it:
A princess is a place in your heart.
Of the books we have, this one is the most real to her because she can actually place herself into it.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
The Paper Bag Princess is about Princess Elizabeth, who lives in a castle with all of the finer things in life and is betrothed to Prince Ronald. Sadly, a dragon burns down the castle along with everything in it, and kidnaps Ronald.
Elizabeth dons a paper bag, the only thing she could find to wear, and manages to trick the dragon and saves Ronald … who only notices how terrible she looks.
Elizabeth dumps him and goes off happily into the sunset. This is a great story all the way around: the princess is the heroine, she is smart, brave, and determined, and has a strong sense of self-worth.
The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett
This is new to our book collection. Through a silly turn of events a pig and a princess swap places, and the strange occurrences that take place as the pig is raised as royalty and the princess is raised as a commoner are explained away because “it's the sort of thing that happens all the time in books.”
While I like that the princess never misses being royalty, what I love best about this book is the opportunity to encourage my daughter to think beyond the stories she reads and not take them as absolute truths – without necessarily destroying the magic.
Do you have your own little princess? How do you talk through these stereotypes? Have any books you would add to this list?Read More