Princess Lila is a princess who had everything in order to be happy, and yet she wasn’t. She lived in an enormous castle, had all of the material things a princess could hope for and servants to take care of her every need. But she wasn’t allowed outside of the walls of her castle and she had no friends. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be so happy in that situation either.
So begins the story Princess Lila Builds a Tower, by Anne Paradis (CrackBoom! Books, May 2017). Lila tries a variety of ways to get past her parent’s rule about not leaving the castle grounds and still seeing the world outside the walls, until she decides to build a tower with the help of one of her tutors. The tutor is thrilled as it will involve architecture, geometry and mathematics. Continue reading →
My younger daughter’s current favorite book is the Usborne Illustrated Stories of Princes and Princesses. We are big fans of the Illuustrated Stories series in general because of their gorgeous illustrations and ability to take well known stories and bring them to younger audiences at an age appropriate level (Shakespeare for an 8 year old!). What sets this particular book apart is the fact that it brings forth many lesser known fairy tales from a variety of cultures and it is a book focusing on princesses, but without that common thread of princess needs saving from prince.
E found this book in our catalog and started begging for it, so of course I bought it, since I’m a sucker for that desire. We were quickly surprised by the content of the stories. Many are well known tales like Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, and the Frog Prince. But then there are stories that have never made their way into my fairy tale loving family – The Princess and the Glass Hill, Princess Nobody, and the Seven Ravens, for example. Each story is beautifully told with illustrations and an easy to read font. Continue reading →
About a week ago I received an email from a reader looking for good chapter book series for her young daughters. First, let me say, I LOVE getting emails like this. I can’t always help when it comes to great books for young boys, but girls, I have that covered! That said, there might be more people looking for similar books, so I wanted to share some series that might be lesser known to people.
Billie B. Brown & Hey Jack – I’ve talked about these series before. Billie B. is a bold and brave young girl who is learning how to believe in herself. Her best friend is a boy named Jack who struggles with some of the same issues that she does. Together, they navigate the world around them and perhaps learn a lesson or two in the process. There are two separate series that each have about 15 books to them. They are ideal for early readers with no more than 50 words per page and with challenging words in bold.
Lily the Elf – Lily the Elf lives with her dad in a tiny house in a busy city. Her granny lives in a cottage behind their house. In these charming books, join Lily as she finds lost treasures, makes wishes, meets new creatures, and masters new skills. As with the Billie B. Brown and Hey Jack books, Lily is aimed at newly emergent readers with only 50 words per page in a large font.
Rainbow Magic Series – Some series never grow old and this popular one by Daisy Meadows is constantly attracting young readers. This series is actually multiple series all under one common theme – young friends, Rachel and Kristy, discover the fairies and find that they are able to help them defeat their arch nemesis, Jack Frost. Each time there are seven books with a common theme – rainbow fairies, sports fairies, ocean fairies, party fairies, the list goes on and on. Young readers easily get hooked on these books, even when parents get sick of them.
The Secret Mermaid – This is a really fun series that appeals to fans of the Daisy Meadow’s Rainbow Magic series. The concept of this series, published by Usborne Books, is that a little girl’s grandmother gives her a magic necklace that allows her to join the mermaid world while she sleeps. It turns out that she is one of a long line of secret mermaids and now she is trying to save the mermaid world from an evil mermaid. A great early chapter book series that still incorporates images and doesn’t cram too much text into each page.
Fairy Ponies – In this series, young Holly and her pony friend, Puck, have wonderful adventures including rescuing missing royalty and saving the day from wicked plots and dark storms. With this series, kids get a bit more adventure than their average fairy books. The Fairy Ponies appeals to kids who are 5-8 years old.
Pony Crazed Princess – Princess Ellie is crazy about her ponies! Any time she can, she trades in her royal crown and fancy dresses for her riding helmet and boots, and heads out to the Royal Stable. Along with her best friend, Kate, Ellie takes her ponies for rides and jumps all around the palace grounds. Together, they go on adventures, solve mysteries, and, of course, spend lots of time with Ellie’s adorable ponies. This is a great book as an early chapter book
The Princess in Black – Shannon Hale, the writer behind the Princess Academy series and Ever After High, hit the nail on the head with her series staring the Princess in Black. The Princess in Black is a humorous and action-packed chapter-book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black. Princess Magnolia appears to be a normal, perfectly dressed princess, but when her monster alarm goes off, she runs to the broom closet, ditches her frilly clothes, and becomes the Princess in Black! This is a great book because it works well as a read-aloud to 4 and 5 year olds and has larger font and images so that a 6 or 7 year old can read it on their own. Super fun and featuring a girl who is unwilling to “just be a princess.”
The Magic Tree House – This is not a series that falls under the overly girly category, but there are few young children who have not been sucked into this fabulous series about siblings Jack and Annie who discover a magic tree house that whisks them away to places and times near and far to solve problems for Morgan Le Fay. Kids are able to learn a great deal about history from these fabulous books without it feeling like they are learning anything. My 6 year old has even decided that she is naming her children after them!
There are tons of books out there for every child’s pleasure. If at first they don’t enjoy a given book, don’t despair, they just haven’t found the right book yet!
My 5 year old is a big lover of Disney Princesses and while she got an absolute blast out of taking pictures with Cinderella, Belle, Ariel and Tianna recently, she has always been more interested in the stories of Mulan and Pochahontas. She has been listening to the audio versions of these stories again recently and as we lie there listening to Pocahontas (it’s first on our CD), she keeps asking me questions about the real Pocahontas, questions I simply haven’t been able to answer.
So yesterday I was in the library looking for non-fiction children’s books for an article that I’m working on and I found Pocahontas: Princess of the New World by Kathleen Krull. I knew that I had to bring that home for her to see and of course she loved it. Kathleen Krull is a real pro at writing biographies for children and I didn’t even realize it was one of hers when I picked it up.
Of course, as soon as E saw the book she was super excited. She started asking me questions in the car and I kept saying, “We will have to read it when we get home.” I didn’t get a chance to read it with her because J read it to her while I was making dinner, but when I asked if she liked it she said she loved it.
Krull admits in the back of the book that very little is known of Pocahontas and that all of her information came from English sources but with the known facts and research from a variety of sources, she tried to put the story together as best she could. Through engaging and colorful illustrations, she captures the younger listener’s eye and her story can be told. As the story begins she is an 11 year old girl who was “clever and fearless.” She was well respected and “knew how to get her own way – as a proper princess must.”
In 1607 three ships from England landed near her village. “The men were exhausted, sick, smelly, and crabby” and they had come to this new land to try and make money for investors in England. “Within months, half of these 108 men would be dead.” The new land wasn’t an easy place for them to live and they didn’t know how to work or live off of the land.
John Smith was a brave adventurer who tried to learn the language of the Powhatan tribe, but one day he was ambushed and taken to their chief who wanted them to leave the land or commit to being his allies against other tribes. When John Smith didn’t answer, a sign was given that made him believe he was about to lose his life. Pocahontas stepped in and for a time there was peace between the two groups. Smith became an important part of the colony’s fate and helped Jamestown develop as it grew to contain 500 English, but one day for no reason he needed to return to England.
The settlement struggled for a while and then things got openly hostile with the Indians. In 1613 they kidnapped Pocahontas, remembering her high status. Her father called their bluff and would not negotiate to get her back. During her kidnapped state, she started to learn more about the English, was coaxed into their clothing and taught their religion. In fact, “the princess became the first American convert to Christianity.” She fell in love with an Englishman, wed him, and had a child. Her father sent gifts and a promise for peace. She wound up traveling back to England and seeing what life was like there, but died soon after.
So the two Disney movies got parts of it right, except for the overwhelming love story angle of the first movie. And now we have a much better idea of what the story of Pocahontas entails so I can answer more of my little one’s inquisitive questions.
I was thrilled to find this book and to add it to the list of non-fiction picture books as a part of the roundup organized by Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction by reading through all of the other blogs and the challenge it gives me to actually get my posts up.
We read a lot of princess stories. I’ve been surrounded by princesses and fairies for years. But we have always done a pretty good job of bringing non-traditional princesses into our mix. I always enjoy reading other people’s lists of books, so I try to create them myself (when time allows). I’ve been putting this grouping together for a few weeks.
The Princess and the Pizza – This fractured fairy tale takes the traditional Princess and the Pea and turns it on it’s head. Here Princess Pauline’s father decides to give up his thrown in order to follow his own dreams, but Pauline misses her princess days. When a local Queen announces that she is searching for a true princess to marry her son, Princess Pauline finds her tiara and heads out.
Pauline passes the “old princess-and-the-pea trick” and is able to wear the glass slipper, but each time a challenge is placed on the group she has some sort of smart response that begins with “for Pete’s sake…” The final test is to cook a feast fit for a king, but before she can even get ingredients, Rapunzel trips her and the seven dwarfs grab nearly everything available. All she is left with is “some flour, yeast, water, three overripe tomatoes, and a hunk of stale cheese.” Then she finds that she has to cook in her room without pots and pans. Of course, in true story form, in a last desperate attempt she manages to make pizza and wins. What makes this even better is that she decides that she doesn’t want to marry the prince after all and would rather make a fortune on pizza.
The Princess and the Pony – This story focuses on a little girl in a warrior kingdom. All she wants is a strong warrior horse, instead of the cozy sweaters her parents keep giving her. When her birthday rolls around, she begs her parents for a warrior horse and instead they give her a squishy pony. To lift her spirits, she enters a battle for warriors. Her pony is not exactly up to the battle, but on the day of the event she tells him to just do his best.
When the battle begins, it is like a crazed skirmish and the reader can’t imagine this little princess going up against all of the big warriors. Princess Pinecone gears up to throw her first spit ball and the fierce warrior that is running towards her comes to a stop to admire her pony. Then all of the other gruff warriors do the same. “This is not how a battle usually goes,” she said. “You’re right,” said Otto, “but we warriors don’t often get to show our cuddly sides.”
Princess Pinecone, and a slew of her cozy sweaters, helps the warriors do just that. This flips the big tough warrior concept on its head when Princess Pinecone wins “most valuable warrior of the day.”
Princesses are Not Quitters – In this unusual tale, three princesses suddenly decided that their days were too dull and that servants seemed to have all of the fun – “out in the fresh air, doing interesting things.” So they decided to swap places for the day.
Soon their backs, hands, and feet were sore, but they didn’t want anyone to say that princesses were quitters, so they kept on working. They missed lunch and dinner because they couldn’t get their chores done fast enough, but they stuck with it and finished everything on their lists.
The next day the princesses slept until noon and limped down to breakfast where they realized that they had had a hand in the food that they were eating. They also had learned just how hard their staff worked. So that day the princesses made a royal proclamation to make the lives of their servants easier. Now if you visit their kingdom, chances are that the princesses are still helping out.
This is an important story about realizing the work that goes on behind the scenes, the importance of helping out, the importance of rest and most of all, perseverance.
Princess Pigsty – Isabella is the youngest of three princesses. The girls have everything they could ever wish for and servants to do their bidding. But Isabella was sick of being a princess. “It’s boring, boring, boring!” She doesn’t want to sit around and look pretty. She wants to have fun – wear pants, climb trees, even pick her nose if she so chooses.
Her father banishes her to the kitchens as punishment. He figures that doing dishes and peeling onions will make her come to her senses. After three days her father sends for her, but she was having a blast. When she still wouldn’t fetch her crown from the fishpond she had thrown it in, he sent her to the pigsty. There she helped feed and clean them, but also played with them. She still refused to get her crown. Her father finally realized that his little girl was finally happy and that she should be allowed to do what she wanted to do.
This is a wonderful story of being true to yourself and also that not all little girls want to be traditionally “girly.” Isabella had an inquisitive mind and learned things by getting her hands dirty and actually working. She had a better knowledge of where her food came from and how the world worked then even her father, the king, did. A great way to encourage young girls to be what they want to be.
The Princess and the Giant – I’m not sure where I first heard about this story, but I am so glad that I did. From the very first page, it challenges traditional gender roles by saying “Her father made the porridge, and her mother chopped the wood, while Princess Sophie rode her bike, as every princess should.”
Sophie and her family were plagued by a giant who stomped around every night and made it impossible for anyone in the kingdom to get any sleep. No one seemed to be able to do anything about it, so Sophie took matters into her own hands. She climbed up to the giant and tried giving him a midnight snack. When that failed she tried loaning him some stuffed animals. She kept trying, but nothing seemed to work. The queen finally sent in the army, but she ran up ahead of them to give it one last valiant try and it worked.
I loved reading about Sophie’s pluck and determination. There was no fear of the giant, who wasn’t mean, just cranky. From a parent’s perspective, there is also the issue of trying to put your kids to bed and finally finding the one thing that works. A great story with a smart little princess.
Interstellar Cinderella – Given my penchant for finding all of the various versions of a specific fairy tale and the fact that we have read a TON of Cinderella stories, I couldn’t help myself when I heard that this book was coming out.
Interstellar Cinderella is about a little girl who dreamed of fixing fancy rockets. When the Prince holds a Royal Space Parade and invites her family she is very excited, but her step-mother tricks her and strands her at their home. Her fairy godrobot brings her a special set of tools and she manages to make the parade. When the prince’s spaceship starts to burn, Interstellar Cinderella knows just how to fix it and together they go to the Gravity-Free Ball. As with all Cinderella stories, she has to run out at midnight, but she leaves her socket wrench behind. The prince searches high and low for the girl who knew so much about fixing rockets and manages to finally find Cinderella. When he asks her to be his bride, she thinks about it, but says “I’m far too young for marriage, but I’ll be your chief mechanic!”
Dreams can come true for this bright little Cinderella. She lives a happy existence fixing ships and hanging out with her friend the prince. A great lesson to follow your own dreams and be whatever you want to be. It is also nice to see Cinderella not marry the prince in the end. A true 21st century take on a classic story.
We love finding books that are different from the norm. What non-traditional princess stories have you read?
We are a household with a deep love for princesses. My younger daughter loves all things princessy and frilly, although her favorite Disney princesses are Tianna and Mulan. I love those choices since they are two “princesses” who are incredibly strong and independent. They don’t need a handsome prince to come and rescue them. They also both work hard to get what they want. In the world of princesses, however, that is not always the case, which is why I love finding books that also showcase the fact that a princess can be anything.
My older daughter has taken a real liking to Shannon Hale’s books. Ms. Hale definitely sees princesses through different eyes. J has utterly fallen in love with the Ever After High series. I wasn’t sure about this series, as I’m not a fan of the whole Monster High phenomenon, but it is a wonderful series. The concept is that the children of famous fairy tale characters all go to Ever After High to learn skills necessary to fulfill their destinies as “the next” in their line. When Raven Queen, daughter of the evil queen from Snow White, comes back the year that she is supposed to sign the book of legacies, she questions the whole concept of destinies, instead wanting to choose her own. All of the princesses and other fairy tale characters not only consider if their intended “happily ever after” is what they want, but they also work together when other challenges come up. The television series that goes along is nice, but we have really enjoyed the three books that have been published.
The book that inspired me to write this post is Hale’s The Princess in Black. This is a perfect early chapter book for emerging readers who are ready for a new challenge. It is full of colorful pictures and feels longer due to the number of pages, a sure way to boost a new reader’s confidence. In this tale, a young princess is known for being perfect, frilly and dainty – everything that we have come to expect of a perfect princess. Princess Magnolia, however, has a secret…she is also the Princess in Black, a super-hero who stops the monsters from doing bad things, like eating goats. It is nice to see a princes who can be princessy and badass, although it would have been even better if she wasn’t hiding her fighting persona, but that following the lead of male superheroes. Definitely a book that thinks outside of the proverbial princess box.
Shannon Hale also wrote the Princess Academy series. The fabulous website A Mighty Girl actually just had a Facebook post about this book saying: “The story follows Miri who is sent with the other girls from her village to a special academy to learn the social graces required of a princess. Miri thrives in her new environment but not necessarily in the intended way — for the first time, she discovers the power of her voice and other unique gifts and, when bandits strike the academy, it’s Miri who rallies the girls to save themselves.” We have this on our list of books to read as it is supposed to be a great series for middle-grade girls.
A book that fits this category perfectly that I’ve been meaning to blog about for some time is Dealing with Dragons. In this book, Princess Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart – and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon – and finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for. We absolutely loved this book and how fun Cimorene was.
Last year we also read Tuesdays At the Castle, a wonderful book of magic and mayhem. The story focuses on Celie, the youngest princess at the Castle Gower, which just so happens to have a mind of its own. Strong female main character, a family working together, and proof that respecting things around us pays off. We really loved this book, although we were not quite as enamored with the sequel.
You didn’t think I could stop with Little Red Riding Hood, did you? When I was finding those books in the library, various Cinderella tales attracted my attention as well. In fact, I almost find Cinderella more amazing because it truly is a multicultural phenomenon. Every country seems to have its own take on the story and it is an amazing way to see how similar we all are throughout our differences.
Walt Disney’s Cinderella
I know it seems crazy to start with this, but those of us with children know this story the best. My 3 year old listened to some of the other Cinderella stories below and would make comments about how she liked the Cinderella with the yellow hair better. In this version, Cinderella is friends with the animals, the mice talk, and the fairy godmother makes everything possible for our heroine. It is a prettified version of the Brothers Grimm version, but loved by children around the world.
Barbara McClintock’s version of Cinderella is based on the French telling of the story, complete with stately French dresses. The illustrations in this version are what make it stunning and it most closely mirrors the story that most of us think of when we envision Cinderella. In this tale, as in the original, Cinderella is a very kind soul even when confronted with the cruelty of her step-sisters. She offers them oranges at the ball and yearns for their friendship. In the end, she forgives them their cruelty and finds husbands for both of her sisters.
This is an incredibly fun take on the Cinderella story. The Bigfoot prince is a nature lover looking for a bride. All of the female bigfoots want to win his love, but it is Rrrrella, with her big feet, ability to knock him off a log, and hatred of wearing flowers that wins his love. A completely unexpected twist on the old classic.
Adelita – A Mexian Cinderella Story
Tomie dePaola’s imaginative retelling is absolutely beautiful. No princesses, no fairies, no magic other than love. In this tale, Adelita’s mother dies early on, but her nanny Esperenza helps raise her. Her father remarries a cold woman who of course gets worse after Adelita’s father dies. Adelita spends her time in the kitchen to be near Esperenza and bask in her love, until Doña Micaela sends Esperenza away. When the family is invited to a party and Adelita is left home, Esperenza swoops in like the fairy godmother. When Adelita goes to the party, she asks to be called Cinderella. The young man of course falls in love with her and the book ends with a happy ending. The magic to me was how real the story felt. The splashes of Spanish and the sheer simplicity in the story are charming. My 6 year old also loved it, even though my 3 year old still prefers the Disney version.
The Orphan – A Cinderella story from Greece
This is not the Greek version, per se. The author’s note says that it is inspired by 2 Greek versions. In this tale, they are paying homage to the original notion of Cinderella going to a second ball and losing her glass slipper there, however, instead of a ball, everyone tries to gain the prince’s favor at a church service. The authors also note that they had their Cinderella “step out of the traditional role in which she waits patiently for her prince.” Rather than wait in the cinders, she heeds the words of her dead mother and gets herself to the church to meet the prince. An interesting take on the classic tale and a nice look at Greek culture.
Joyce Carol Thomas creates a completely different take on the classic tale in this version. Here, Cinderella is separated from her mother, Queen Mother Rhythm, after a hurricane and is taken in by the mean Crooked Foster Mother who wants a kitchen hand. Years later, the Great Gospel Choir is looking for a new lead singer. Cinderella has her mother’s voice, but of course is not allowed to audition. She is drawn to the gospel convention anyway and wows everyone, then disappears. In the end, she is found and reunited with her mother. A beautiful story that portrays the importance of gospel and music in the African American community.
Ella’s Big Chance
Shirley Hughes transforms the Cinderella story with the glamour of the jazz age. Ella Cinders is a top-notch dress maker in her father’s shop. Her father remarries a woman who changes everything at the shop making Ella’s life much harder. The only source of happiness in her life is her friendship with Buttons, the loyal delivery boy at the shop, who would sing songs and dance with Ella to remind them of happier times. Ella manages to go to a special party where she meets the Duke and he falls in love with her. The awesome twist is that Ella realizes that she doesn’t love the fancy Duke, but rather, her heart belongs to Buttons, her long-time friend and confidant. There is something completely charming about the fact that Ella doesn’t feel the need to run away with the prince/duke. Life isn’t about riches but instead about finding true happiness.
Yeh-Shen – A Cinderella story from China
This Chinese version of Cinderella pre-dates the European version we are so familiar with by about 1000 years. In this story, Yeh-Shen’s father had two wives who each bore a daughter, but Yeh-Shen’s mother dies when she is very young. The only friend that Yeh-Shen has is a fish that she caught and raised. Her step-mother kills the fish and cooks it for dinner. A spirit tells Yeh-Shen that there is power in the bones of the fish and it helps to keep her alive. When the spring festival comes, where Chinese go in hopes to find a husband or wife, Yeh-Shen is not allowed to go, but she asks the bones to help her borrow clothes fit to wear to the feast. She is given a beautiful dress and woven shoes and told not to lose the shoes. As she is leaving the party, since her sister found her familiar looking, she accidentally loses a slipper. The King gets hold of her second shoe and looks for its owner. Yeh-Shen gets the shoe back late at night when no one can see her and the King is entranced by her beauty. When she put both shoes on, she was once again transformed into the outfit she wore to the party. The King falls in love and they are married. It is very interesting to read a story so similar to our traditional Cinderella story.
Kongi and Potgi – A Cinderella story from Korea
Oki Han tells the story of Cinderella as her father told her as a child in Seoul, Korea. In this story, Kongi and Potgi are step-sisters. Kongi is treated poorly and made to do harder work while Potgi gets the soft bed and simpler tasks. Even though Kongi has to do more work, she never has a bad word to say about her step-mother or sister and when it seems a task is insurmountable, the animals always seem to lend her a hand. When a party was to be held for the prince to find a bride, Kongi’s step-mother tried to give her a task that could never be done in time. Thanks to birds who came to help and angels who gave her beautiful clothes, Kongi was able to go. The story ends with Kongi becoming Queen and even her step-mother and step-sister changing their ways and helping others. Both J and I really enjoyed this story. She liked the notion of it being similar to the original story but Kongi only having one sister. I like the fact that it is Kongi’s kindness that brings out the kindness in the animals. This is also one of the rare stories that doesn’t have both of Cinderella’s parents die. The illustrations and depictions of the Korean way of life are also wonderful.
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal – A Worldwide Cinderella
This book is amazing and the inside front cover puts it perfectly – “Once upon a time in Mexico…in Iran…in Ireland…in Zimbabwe…There lived a girl who worked all day in the rice fields…cooked in the royal kitchen…tended the cattle…then spent the night by the hearth, sleeping among the cinders. Her story has spanned centuries and continents, changing to match its surrounds.” This book manages to tell the Cinderella story from a variety of perspectives, each page showing what country the story is from, some pages going back and forth between different countries to show how the same story changes slightly from place to place – “And on the girl’s feet appeared a pair of glass slippers (France)…diamond anklets (India)…sandals of gold (Iraq).” This is a must read for all lovers of the Cinderella story.
When I started this blog, a big impetus was because my daughter is advanced in her reading abilities and finding books that are age appropriate and yet still challenging is incredibly complicated. There are tons of great books out there, but it can be overwhelming to find books to keep kids occupied that are not beyond their emotional intelligence and maturity. I’ve reviewed a lot of picture books because you are never too old to enjoy a good picture book, but I was inspired by the blog Pragmatic Mom to put together a grouped list. While thinking about it, I realized that it actually made more sense to come up with a couple of lists, so here is the first of a series on chapter books for young girls. My 6 year old is still fairly obsessed with princess and fairies, so these are some of her current favorites. If you know of additional series, I would love to hear them.
Rainbow Magic – This is a great series that will appeal to the 4-8 year old crowd, as I explained in this previous post. The books are incredibly formulaic, but that is appealing to emerging readers. The book focuses on two young girls, Rachel and Kristy, who always find a way to help whatever fairy has had her enchanted object stolen by Jack Frost.
The Candy Fairies – For girls who enjoy Rainbow Magic books but are ready for a slight change of scenery, this sugary sweet series is sure to please. Instead of evil goblins lead by Jack Frost, the bad guy is Mogu the troll (and some goblins for good measure). The candy fairies work together to solve problems such as why the candy crops are melting, how to stop two fairies from arguing and who stole the chocolate eggs. As a parent, I’m shocked to say that I would prefer reading Rainbow Magic over these, but J loves this series, so they obviously speak to their market.
The Rescue Princesses – This is a new series that we have found that I’ve been meaning to write about. A full post will come soon. In the meantime, in this charming series 4 young princesses meet at a Grand Ball and find that they are all more than fancy dresses and perfect manners. Each book find the girls saving an animal in trouble using their smarts and skills. This is definitely a great series for the 6-10 crowd.
Whatever After – As mentioned previously, this is a fun series that takes a different twist on fairy tales. Brother and sister duo discover that there is a mirror in their basement that magically transports them to fairy tales. They learn, however, that just by being there the fairy tales change – Snow White doesn’t bite the poisoned apple and Cinderella doesn’t marry the prince. They are told in a fun manner and get kids thinking that the stories they know so well don’t always have to have the same ending.
Mermaid Tales – We haven’t actually read book 1 in this series, “Trouble at Trident Academy.” However, J has read “Battle of the Best Friends” and “The Lost Princess” and enjoyed both of them. The story follows young mermaids and mermen in their 3rd grade class at Trident Academy. The books show how the young mermaids deal with normal, and some not so normal, events that are a part of growing up – new social circles, starting a new school, taking a trip to somewhere new, finding out that you’re a princess…At least it is a nice change from fairies.
My Little Pony Chapter Books – If your daughter likes the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic series, she will love these books. They are written very much like the show, minus the musical numbers. The nice part is that they are not a retelling of episodes your child has already seen, but seem to be stand alone works. As with the show, there is usually some kind of nice moral message to go along with the story.
Magic Pony Series – Okay, so this one isn’t fairies or princesses, but these books feature a little girl who has a magical poster where the pony comes alive at random times. The young girl, Annie, buys a poster at a magic shop and her life is changed. Now she finally has a pony of her own, but she has to keep him secret. This is a very sweet series that probably would attract the 4-8 range.
Maybe a month ago, I picked up a book at the local library for J that I had heard about from a friend. It was the second book in a series, but the only one that was available. The book? Whatever After – If the Shoe Fits. We starting reading the beginning of the together and J instantly loved it. Even I thought it was pretty fun. We wanted to read the rest of the series, but the libraries here only have book #2 and none of the bookstores carry the series. I was going to buy them all through Amazon, but thanks to the Scholastic book club, they will all be in our hands in a week or so at a great price.
The premise of the series is that 10 year old Abby and her 7 year old brother Jonah get magically transported inside fairy tales through a magic mirror in their basement. In the first book, they apparently stop Snow White from eating the poisoned apple but then realize that without that, she never meets her prince, never falls in love and doesn’t live happily ever after. So with book #2, when they wind up in Cinderella’s story, they vow to not keep her from meeting and marrying the prince. However, just by being in the story, they have altered it and have to work to keep the ending correct. Book #3 takes place in The Little Mermaid and book #4 is Sleeping Beauty. Book 4 technically doesn’t come out until the end of November, but the Scholastic website doesn’t mention that, so who knows when we’ll see that one.
Scholastic has these marked as for grades 3-5. I don’t get it. J loved this book and is drooling over the other 3. Every day she asks when they are getting here. They are slightly longer at about 176 pages, but the stories are still pretty light. Plus, we heard about them from a friend whose daughter has just started 2nd grade and she and her friends read them for their own book club. There has been some talk about why we need to separate books so much by grade and reading level. Either kids like the book or they don’t. Either they can read it, or it is too hard for them.
Anyway, I would highly recommend this series for young girls. Below is also the book trailer, the newest craze in the book world.
There seems to be no way to escape princesses when you have two little girls these days. While many of the princesses out there fit into the Disneyfied style of a pretty girl who needs to be saved by prince charming, there are plenty of stories that feature strong girls who just happen to also be princesses. Here is a selection of some of our favorites.
The Paper Bag Princess – this might possibly be my personal all time favorite princess book. I don’t think J loves it as much as I do, but she does enjoy it. In this story, Princess Elizabeth’s boyfriend is kidnapped by a dragon who also burns down her castle. Wearing only a paper bag, she searches for the dragon to get Prince Ronald back. Using her intelligence and cunning she not only finds the dragon, but outwits him and is able to save Prince Ronald. The Not-So-Charming prince isn’t pleased with her appearance as she saves him and rudely tells her “You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” Elizabeth retorts with my favorite line of the entire book – “‘Ronald, your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a prince, but you are a bum.”‘ They didn’t get married after all.”
Brave – Yes, it is a Disney story, but they did a great job of creating a strong princess who doesn’t need to be rescued. If you don’t already know the story, Princess Merida is a free-spirited 16 year old girl who excels at archery. Her father decides it is time to marry her off to one of three local princes. She balks at the idea and finds a way to circumvent the age-old custom. When her mother scolds her for disobeying the rules, she runs to the forest, manages to find a witch who casts a spell to “change her mother.” Little did she expect that it would mean change her mother into a bear! In order to set things right, mother and daughter manage to figure out how to communicate with each other and “mend the bond torn by pride.” It is a great story of strength and the mother/daughter bond.
The Princess and the Frozen Packet of Peas – We all know the story of the princess and the pea, a girl has to prove that she is a true princess by sleeping on a pea and being uncomfortable. Somehow I find that notion slightly degrading and annoying. Imagine my surprise when we found this retelling of the story that turned that idea on its head! Prince Henrik is a young prince who wants to get married, but hopes to find a princess who likes hockey and camping, just like him. He asked his older brother for advice and was told to make sure she is a “real princess.” Henrik’s brother had tested his wife by putting a single pea under a stack of twenty mattresses. “If a girl complains about feeling the pea through mattress and eiderdown quilts, she is a real princess.” Henrik then watches his sister-in-law and didn’t like the way she acted and treated people. He wanted to marry someone exactly the opposite. So Prince Henrik used one thin mattress instead of twenty and instead of one pea, he used a packet of frozen peas. “Many young girls visited, but none passed the test.” When his friend Pippa came over, he also put her to the test. She loved having the frozen peas in her bed as they worked as an ice pack for her shin that was sore from a hockey game. Henrik asked her to marry him because, while she wasn’t a real princess, she would be “an unreal princess.” I love the fact that it shows that you can still be a princess while being true to yourself.
The Usborn Book of Princess Stories – This book was brought back from London for my 2 year old daughter. She loves it so much that I find myself reading her the 4 short stories in this collection every night. These stories are incredibly simple and have some odd grammer issues, but she loves them and they feature a princess who isn’t a damsel in distress. Each story is about Prince Max and Princess Alice. Alice likes pigs, stands up to a dragon, dresses up like a boy so she can joust and flies her grandmother’s magic broom. It’s a great read for your smaller princesses.
Sadie the Paper Crown Princess – Sadie is a “little girl not very different from most other girls.” She enjoys tea parties, dressing up, drawing, climbing trees, making mud pies and fishing. She is expected to go to Princess Academy where she will learn proper princess etiquette and earn her tiara. She wanted to be a princess, but she also wanted to be more. She struggles at princess school and her teachers claim she needs to prove that she has a true royal heart. Their final exam is an around the world adventure where Sadie both learns and proves that she truly does have a real princess’s heart – one of altruism and humanity. Oddly enough, I was able to talk to J about this story in comparison to a recent episode of Sophia the First where Sophia proves that he is a real princess by being the only one in her school to help someone in need.
The Very Fairy Princess – Geraldine is a little girl who believes that deep down, she is a fairy princess. With her spark and charm, Gerry goes about her day following the princess rules – she is always presentable, has refined taste, is very practical, very supportive, knows when to take charge, is very creative, and knows that practice makes perfect, even if you get a skinned knee in the process. Written by Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, it is a very sweet story for the fairy princess in all of us.
Dangerously Ever After – Our newest princess book shows that princesses don’t have to always be sugar and spice and everything nice. Princess Amanita loves all things that are dangerous. Brakeless bicycles, pet scorpions, spiky plants–that’s her thing. So when quiet Prince Florian gives her roses, Amanita is unimpressed . . . until she sees their glorious thorns! Now she must have rose seeds of her own. But when huge, honking noses grow instead, what is a princess with a taste for danger to do? It is a silly story, but a good change of pace with beautiful art.
We are always on the lookout for good books. For more great books that have princesses with panace, check out the A Mighty Girl’s ultimate guide to the independent princess.