Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Penitent about Princesses

So I know I slammed princesses yesterday, and today I’m feeling a little penitent. I mean, not all princesses suck. There are a lot of cool, kick-ass princesses who are pretty and have a good personality, so to speak. The whole package. And I’ve been slowly amassing an “unconventional princess” picture book collection to combat the Disney brigade. Here’s what I’ve got:

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Classic Munsch, as they say on the cover. Girl outsmarts dragon to rescue her prince only to find out he’s a superficial “bum.” Man, Munsch is good. A real delight.

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

This is a funny one that appeals as much to my son as my daughter because of the various gross trials and tribulations Princess Smartypants puts potential suitors through, to win her hand. No one succeeds until Prince Swashbuckle who passes every test with flying colors; he doesn’t think the princess is too smart. But guess who gets the last laugh when Princess Smartypants gives him the kiss he’s been vying for and turns him into a big fat frog.

The Princess Knight, by Cornelia Funke

Violet is the younger sister of a bunch of boys, all of whom were raised to be knights but are pretty worthless. They mock her since she’s small. Never underestimate the little ones, I always say. She trains to be a knight, by night, with the help of the gardener’s son, and then enters herself, in disguise, in the contest for her own hand in marriage. She wins, of course. And then she runs off with the gardener’s son.

Princess Pigsty, by Cornelia Funke

Princess Isabella, sick of being pampered, starts the book off with a bang by tossing her crown in the fishpond and refusing to retrieve it. Her dad sends her to the kitchen as punishment, but as it turns out, she is happy doing chores down there and still won’t fish out her crown. Then he sends her to the pigsty, which is just about her favorite place ever. In the end, the King concedes to live and let live, and Princess Isabella gets to be exactly who she is.

Pirate Girl, by Cornelia Funke

Although not technically a princess tale, this is my favorite grrrrl power picture book. The illustrations are amazing and Funke is really at her lyrical best describing Captain Redbeard and his motley crew, the terror of the high seas, who one day capture a little girl who they really should have left alone. They bring Molly on board and try to collect a ransom for her, but can’t get her to divulge her mother’s name. Then one day, they find out who her mother is when Barbarous bertha and her harrowing crew of uber-tough pirate ladies easily overpower Redbeard’s team. My favorite line is when Barbarous Bertha asks her little girl, “What should we do with these piratical nincompoops?” We quote it often chez moi. I think I just identity very keenly with Big Mama Bertha, with a knife stashed in her garter and a mane of flaming hair. Raaaaar!

Atalanta, in Free to Be You and Me, is an oldie but a goodie . . . and I'm out.

Anyone have another title to add to the list?