Non Traditional Princess Books to Empower our Daughters

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6 Non Traditional Princess Books to Empower Girls - A great list!Wow! I guess that post (rant!) about princesses hit a nerve. What a lot of great comments! Thank you. And thank you also for the reminder that this is just a phase and that many girls go through it, hopefully without ill effect.

To follow up, here is the list I’ve been promising you of our favorite children’s picture books featuring strong and empowering princesses. We’ve been reading these and other non traditional princess books ever since I posted about The Paper Bag Princess and asked for recommendations for other, similar books.

Anyway, here’s the list of our favorites so far, and it looks like we may have more to add after we explore some of the books mentioned yesterday.

The best NON Traditional princess books to empower our daughters to be strong, proactive, and self-confident.

Because I want my daughters to think for themselves, question the status quo, and rescue themselves if necessary.

Definitely NOT sitting around waiting for a knight in shining armor to show up!

Or a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand.

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Brave Little Seamstress

The Brave Little Seamstress by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Giselle Potter

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Brave Little Seamstress

This one is my favorite, although it doesn’t technically feature a princess. The Brave Little Seamstress starts out as just that — a seamstress. But, full of confidence and resourcefulness, she holds her own with giants, unicorns, knights, wild boars, and a king. In the end she takes over the kingdom as queen (hence the book’s spot here with the other princess books).

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - Princess Grace

Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - Princess Grace Interior

We love Princess Grace as well as Amazing Grace, Hoffman’s first book about this imaginative and independent little girl. In this book, Grace is chosen to represent her class as a princess in a parade. As she tries to figure out what to wear, she learns about many nontraditional and empowering princesses throughout history. In the end, she chooses to dress up as an African princess (in Kente robes) rather than in the frilly fairy-tale dress she had originally imagined.

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - Cinder Edna

Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Kevin O’Malley

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - Princess Edna Interior

Cinder Edna is just plain funny. It contrasts the highly manicured, but helpless, Cinderella, who has to wait for her fairy godmother to transform a pumpkin into a coach, with her next door neighbor, spunky and resourceful Cinder Edna, who takes the subway to the ball.

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Princess Knight

The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke and illustrated by Kerstin Meyer

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - Princess Knight Interior

Princess Violetta is trained to ride and joust along with her older brothers. She is smaller and quieter than them, but very determined, and her skill surpasses theirs as well as that of all the knights in the kingdom. This we find out during the tournament set by her father to see who will win her hand in marriage (she enters in disguise and wins in order to avoid a marriage she doesn’t want). We really like this book, as well as Cornelia’s Pirate Girl!

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Apple-Pip Princess

The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Apple Pip Princess Interior

The Apple-Pip Princess is a sweet story about Serenity, the youngest of three princesses, who seeks to heal the land through hard work and a little magic. While Serenity is planting and tending fruit seeds, her older sisters are competing to impress their father by building towers to the moon and stars (and bankrupting their people in the process). I love both the story and the beautiful illustrations.

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Paper Bag Princess

Many of you mentioned The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch yesterday.

Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Paper Bag Princess Interior

It is one of our favorites, too, and definitely a classic! After a dragon burns down the castle and carries away the prince, the princess pays him a call. She’s able to outsmart the dragon (by playing to his ego) and rescue the prince who turns out to be not such a great catch after all.

Did I miss one of your favorites? What other books belong on this list?

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  1. Jennie says

    We liked Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale. Thanks for this list I will be checking these out soon!

  2. says

    We like “Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?”. It’s a simple, fun, and pretty short book which hold my daughters attention span ( she is 2) but I would recommend checking it out of the library.

  3. says

    This is wonderful. I have four boys and am faced with the conflict of showing them some of the traditional stories, where the male is the HERO, and/or other stories where girls can take care of themselves. I believe that the more you show children a gender representative, the more they can absorb that character as “normal”.
    We NEED more empowered girls in our story-books!!
    As it is today in Western society, boys grow up with a sense that they will one day be in charge of or be able to control a women. She is emotional, naggy, and desperate for affection… along with a whole lot of other bad qualities.
    It can be a RUDE awakening for our sons when they grow up realize that women are NOT their fairy-tale characters… and for some men, the sense of power/entitlement can ruin their lives and their personalities.
    Thank you for sharing some great books for both our daughters AND our sons. :)

  4. says

    We just read Princesses Are Not Quitters by Kate Lum.
    Its about 3 princesses who are sooo bored and they think that the servants have all the fun. So they decide to trade places with them for one day. Of course, it is not how they expected it to be. At the end of the day, they go back to being princesses but they make a proclamation that noone should be overworked. They also learn the lesson to take pride in one’s work.

  5. MaryAnn F. Kohl, art author says

    My adult daughters are two of the most “not princess” women you’d ever want to meet — and they loved being princesses when they were little. Sure, we talked about how the prince doesn’t have to save them, they can save themselves… about how a princess is this or that. Don’t worry too much! It’s your home life and how you interact with your husband and set examples as a living human woman that makes the real difference. All the other dialogue adds to it of course.
    I was interested to read Jennifer’s comments about boys. I think the bigger job may be with our boys, helping them grow to be loving fathers and husbands.

  6. Lauren says

    The Ordinary Princess was a favorite for my sister and I. And Patricia Wrede’s fantasy novels featuring Cimorene are about a smart, practical very cool princess who does her own thing!

  7. Jeanne P says

    It’s great to hear from the voice of experience – thank you MaryAnn. I haven’t tried to diminish my own three year-old daughter’s enthusiasm for princesses (even of the Disney variety). I remember loving similar play as I was growing up. It didn’t stop me from being a feminist who questions inequality and passivity.

  8. says

    For a personalized princess book with a GOOD message about sharing, resourcefulness, and teamwork, visit I heard they are going to close up shop soon, which is too bad since the books are really creative and positive. (I should know– I wrote the princess and baseball stories) (but this is not a commercial as I no longer work for the company)

  9. says

    Hi, a little late with my comments, but here’s a few of my favourites. (My girls are only 15 months and 2 1/2 so not quite old enough for the second two, but can’t wait!)
    You Can’t Eat A Princess (princess has to go and rescue her Father when he is kidnapped by aliens)
    The Princess and the Dragon (princess much prefers rampaging around and swaps places with the quiet, violin-playing dragon)
    and my favourite:
    The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas (prince wants to marry a princess that likes hockey and camping but needs to design a test to find one)

  10. Grandma Janet says

    Not a “princess” book but the Pippi Longstocking books are a classic. She does not dress like a princess.

  11. Meg says

    Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne is lots of fun. We love Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, but that is probably a little old for your daughter (remember it for later!). I love your recommendations. My two year old loves Princess Baby by Karen Katz, which is mostly about the fun of dressing up as a princess. Oh, and one book my daughter loved (not really a super princessy one, but it has princess in the title) is The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven.

  12. says

    What a great list of books. I am concerned about my five month old’s future with the princess world. These books look like they could provide a compromise in the trenches! Thanks!

  13. Shelly says

    What about the Oz series by L Frank Baum. I read a chapter a night at bedtime to my almost 3 yr old. Princess Ozma is very smart, strong, and caring. We’re both emjoying all the characters and little lessons.

  14. says

    There’s a new book out called Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by the very talented Jane Yolen. I laughed out loud at the first page that says something along the lines of ‘some princesses play with dirty socks that stink’!

  15. says

    Thanks so much for this post! My daughter is also into princesses which pains me greatly ;) so I am grateful for a list of books to check out with her. Paper Bag Princess and Apple Pip Princess are two of our favorites!

  16. Eliza says

    My Princess Boy is a book about a boy princess and it’s based on a true story of a little boy who likes to dress up “girly” (hate that word) clothes.
    There is an interview with his family here:
    So wonderful!

  17. says

    I am excited to read these to my little boy because misogyny is destructive to boys as well as girls. Thanks for these recommendations, including those in the comments.