Princesses drive me crazy!

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What is it with princesses and little girls? I can understand cars and boys. Cars are all around us. Everyone uses them; they are functional, fast, exciting, and modern. I can see how anyone would be into them. But princesses? Princesses are obsolete as far as I can tell — especially in this country where they are only perpetuated by Disney and fairy tales. It drives me crazy that so many little girls are obsessed with them because all princesses ever do are look beautiful and get saved by the prince. Talk about indoctrinating our girls early in some of our worst societal conventions! Be beautiful, skinny, nice, popular, well-dressed, with high heels (glass slippers!), and wait around for a prince to sweep you off your feet. Come on now! Is sleeping beauty really the role model we want for our daughters?

We've been avoiding the princess thing as much as possible in our house, but it's all around us and we don't live in a vacuum by any means. I also don't want to make a big deal out of it. Maia has princess-y dress up clothes and plays princess with her friends. We also have this (great!) fairy tale game and read books that feature princesses. As I struggle with my own princess aversions and prejudices (and yes, I know they're mostly just my own), I am helping her plan her 5th birthday party with a princess theme! Argh. Although I have to admit I just love that she wants a princesses and monsters party.

Maia had a great first day of kindergarten, by the way. She wore the t-shirt she decorated and was very excited to head off to school. That kid has spunk! As I think of her and the character traits I would like to help her develop, here's what comes to mind — I want to help her be smart, loving, strong, adventurous, resourceful, creative, confident, and responsible. I can do this through the way I parent, of course, but I'd also like to
make sure she has strong role models, both in real life and in the books
we read.

I've had several requests for a post of our favorite books that feature powerful or unconventional princesses (we've read quite a few lately!), and will try to do that soon. I would also love recommendations for books with strong non-princess female characters. So please tell me if you know of any good ones!

How about you? What character traits do you want to foster in your children?




 
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  1. Kari says

    I’m excited to know hear about your favorite fairy tale and princess books! Now that I have a little girl, I am sharing some of your concerns. I have to say, though, that I have been aggravated ever since Isaac was born about a similar, but perhaps more subtle societal indoctrination of boys. It’s difficult to find clothing for boys that doesn’t suggest some “manly” theme – sports, sharp-toothed wild animals, camo, superheroes,cars and machines, etc. I think boys are naturally drawn to some of these things, and I don’t really want Isaac to grow up in an environment sterilized of all stereotypes. But I have found myself just wishing that it was easier to find simple, colorful clothing (what happened to primary colors?!) and non-themed kid dishes, toothpaste, backpacks, etc.

  2. says

    I wrote a post recently about this very topic! I want my nearly-four-year-old daughter to aspire to be more than just a wait-around-for-the-prince-to-rescue-you kind of girl. I gave my daughter three ‘different’ princess books about “The Princess and the Pea” and made her a little set with a bed with ten quilts, a felted pea and bought a little princess. The books are quirky with strong princesses – see http://earthlyjoyride.blogspot.com/ under princesses for my review.

  3. says

    I think we want so many of the same things for our daughter, but princesses, Barbie and fashion are all high on the agenda for her – and she won’t even be 4 for another 2 weeks! We’ve been invited to a day at the races for a friends birthday in a few months and she is already wondering what she can wear so she can be “fashion”, and if she should wear make up!
    At the same time, for the last year she has wanted to be a “fire engine girl” and when she got to don a jacket and hat and hold a hose was a big day for her. She loves fighting monsters with her cousins and boy friends, but would rather play catch than kick the ball.
    I think I just have to let her go and explore every option. And if we do make it to the races (it clashes with her dance school concert) I’ll make sure she lets me put on her make up rather than do it herself ….

  4. says

    I’ve reviewed 2 non fiction books for kids recently about real women who I hope inspire my daughters – Maria Merian, a scientist and naturalist who was born 1647, and Wangari Muta Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (and who is still alive). My 5 and 2 year old both enjoyed each book and I’d certainly recommend them if you’re looking for stories about inspirational women!
    Here are the links to the reviews:
    http://www.playingbythebook.net/2010/08/16/butterflies-mud-and-stick-on-velcro/
    http://www.playingbythebook.net/2010/08/12/trees-leaves-and-sandwich-boards/

  5. says

    Princesses drive me crazy to some degree too! I don’t have any little girls of my own, but when I do have princess crazy girls around I encourage them to be Cinderella, hand them a broom, vacuum, or duster, and off to work they go! There is a short little video clip where a little boy goes nuts on a class full of little people telling them that “we live in a democracy, so there is no way you are ever going to grow up to be a princess… ” Not really great viewing for little ones (as he also tells them there is no such thing as santa claus, but I found it amusing for the princess part. I don’t remember where it is from, but I’ll try to track it down :).

  6. says

    I think for many girls the princess thing is not about the prince, or being helpless: it’s about the glamour. The dresses, and frills, and sparkle; getting to dress up and be someone new and special, someone who is, in an odd way, powerful by being one of a chosen few. That said, I refuse to give my daughter Barbie stuff, or Disney princess stuff. We read the Barbara McClintock edition of Cinderella, which follows the traditional story closely but emphasizes her strong morals and loving character. McClintock also did a nice version of A Little Princess, which focuses on a little girl who goes from privileged heiress to poor servant, yet who retains her good heart and kind behavior (and who in the end is restored to happiness). And finally, when we read any story, we talk about choices characters make, about actions and consequences, and so forth.
    Our daughter, who is now six, went through a big princess phase from four to five, and then moved on to her current ballet obsession–this, though certainly retaining elements of the princess mindset (!) at least involves athleticism and hours of hard work–two things that are teaching her many good lessons about perseverance and character.
    I think the fact that Maia likes princesses and monsters is a great sign! You just have try to keep a balance of ideas, roles, and characters in the books you read and the activities your family participates in.

  7. says

    I have a princess pet peeve too! I haven’t dealt with the issue with my two-year-old daughter yet, because she’s more at the battling-the-dragon-with-my-brother point than at the waiting-around-in-a-tower-to-get-rescued point, but I see it all around us and I worry…. There is a book you might have already discovered, called THE PAPERBAG PRINCESS by Robert Munsch. The princess saves the prince, and wearing a paper bag, no less! Unfortunately, he doesn’t appreciate her, so she dumps him and moves on! Smart girl!

  8. says

    The draw to princesses in this house amazes me. We also have that great storytelling game, and anytime I get to tell a story the princess is a hero.
    I do have a book suggestion: Princess Smartypants. She’s the coolest princess who wears play clothes and sneak her way out of being betrothed. It’s adorable, and yes, she does live happily ever after without an annoying prince.
    I hope for my 3 daughters that they grow up independent and capable.

  9. says

    Princesses drive me crazy, too. We’ve avoided them for 6 1/2 years, with only the occasional princess dress-up outfit. She’s never seen a Disney movie. It’s a little difficult to keep princesses in their place, especially when school starts and other girls talk about it, but it IS possible.
    I love Kevin Henkes’ books and his female characters – like Shelia Rae the Brave, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, etc. Also, “Girl, You’re Amazing” is a great book that we’ve been reading for years. Check out “Great Books for Girls”. It gives suggestions for books with good girl characters from birth up to the teen years.

  10. says

    Boys have superheros that like to bounce off the walls and leap off of top bunks. :D Like where did they find out about superheros? They don’t exist AT ALL. ha!
    Anyway, I like your point generally about role models. It’s not always something that I think about when we’re the “little” phase and so focused on the parent-child bond. These 5yo’s, though, are ready for stretching their minds that way. We’ve got Kindy heading our way in another two weeks.

  11. FrogMom says

    I love Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman. It addresses the “what do princesses do besides stand around and be pretty?” question and discusses some real life princesses (from lots of different racial and ethnic backgrounds) who were humanitarians, soldiers, scientists, and spies. It also emphasizes that there are lots of different kinds of “pretty” – so important to me as a mom of African American girls when typical princess stuff portrays blonde hair and blue eyes as the ideal. Now when my girls play princess I ask what their princess does and they reply “I am a Princess Karate man” or “Princess Rock Star” etc :)

  12. Jude says

    This book is awesome:
    http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Cartooning-Turn-Doodles-Comics/dp/1596433698/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282138447&sr=8-1
    not only a great creativity starter but (spoiler alert) the knight turns out to be the princess!
    We’ve been dealing with the same issue here with two girls (6 and 3) but we try to balance it out as best we can without an outright ban on all princessy stuff. Again, I sometimes have to realize that it’s not always about the subtext, the waiting for the prince etc, a lot of times it IS just the pretty shiny stuff. We were heartened recently to over hear this little exchange between older and younger sibling though…the younger one said “i be a princess and you be a princess” and the older one told her “oh, no, Elinor princesses just sit around in towers waiting to be rescued, you want to be a hero or a knight!” Woot, our clumsy and (cough) subtle propaganda all these short years seems to have actually worked. At least until she went over a friend’s house and played a Disney princess video game… DISNEY!!!!!!!

  13. says

    Lol – and I so wish I had a girl so we could enjoy some princess fun! Though I have to say the princess/monster idea is pretty darn cool.

  14. Alice says

    Another good option is “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine. It’s a reinterpretation of the Cinderella story, and the characters are richly developed, and Ella is no pushover. Levine explains her seeming docility by making her subject to a misguided fairy’s baby gift of “obedience”. Ella spends her time trying to figure a way out of the so-called gift. Along the way, she meets the prince (who is a nice guy, and likes the fact that she’s not a pushover) and they take turns saving each other. In the end, she overcomes the curse by developing her own will. Cool huh?

  15. tasha says

    i have two boys, so i can’t relate 100%. my older boy is 4.5, and one of his nicknames is princess, because though is very masculine, he is also a prima donna. it is so strange to me, that our world is filled horrible role models for children, with really exaggerated gender stereotypes. i think the need to feel beautiful is instinctual, and little girls pick up on that really fast. i know as a little girl, i was totally into anything princessy, but grew up to adore unconventional beauty in myself and others, with a fierce bent for gender equality. it will pass, and she will have her awesome, “smart, loving, strong, adventurous, resourceful, creative, confident, and responsible” mama as her hero, and example! not a book, but our favorite movie is Monsters vs. Aliens. it is quite the feminist flick, perhaps the only one i can really think of. our books are more general right now, without a lot of gender stuff. also, b/c of this, and b/c my son does not read yet, i change stories around, and add different dialogue and themes.

  16. says

    Princesses and brides have CREEPED ME OUT since I was a little kid. At age 8 I discovered princess DIANA! I wanted to be her. I wanted to help children who did not have all the things I had. I couldn’t become a princess Diana so I became a teacher. Some princesses are very powerful role models. And as for the bride thing. I eventually became one because it was my dream to stay with this awesome guy for the rest of my life (and to have others accept it). We eloped first though:)

  17. says

    I agree that The Paperbag Princess is a good option in books. I also like Princess Fiona from Shrek.
    We’ve avoided the glamorous Princess trap (mostly) by redirecting to other strong women who get to dress up, like Pirates — Grace O’Malley, Pirate Queen of Ireland. We like her. :)

  18. says

    My daughter was into princesses for several years and I tried I really did to get her into other things. I finally just embraced it because it was mostly about the outfits. I then rented Wonder Woman DVDs from netflix and then created a Wonder Woman in a 5 year old body. That is all she wants to watch now or do things related to Wonder Woman even when she plays with dolls. :)

  19. says

    I do feel this is a phase for girls 4-5 and my hope is that by accepting it and not trying to change it that they will grow out of it, much like their love of Elmo. J is obsessed with Sleeping Beauty right now. We didn’t ever see a movie, read a book or see a TV show for this character and yet she is constantly seeking her out — she wears pink and has yellow hair. I have bought her minimal items with Sleeping Beauty to cure her need and now, I hope we can move on. L is just into glamour and fashion, period.
    Love the books post idea and can’t wait to read it.
    Also, we discovered Woodkins thanks to a Yard Sale at church. I paid a buck for the toy and they are seriously addicted to this toy and you would love it as well because of the use of fabric remnants. Google it and buy it and then thank me later. :) it’s been a great distraction to the princesses and castles … as well as our other thing, mommy and baby play which drives me crazy as well. like it’s all about having a baby! : )

  20. says

    DARN! I was so hoping that you were going to share how you ousted princesses from your world! We avoided them so much so that my daughter didn’t even know they existed…until preschool. Oh well, can’t keep them in the dark forver I guess:(

  21. Elizabeth says

    My favorite non-Princess book is called, “Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon”. Great book about maintaining self esteem in the face of adversity. Definitely worth a read.
    I agree with your princess aversion 100%. I’ve tried to keep my daughter’s toys and clothes princess-free, but a few pieces have snuck in.

  22. Kris says

    I agree with Sarah–for my daughter it is about the glamour. She is 6.5 now and now it is all about fairies, mostly because of the sparkle. :). But I have looked for other ways to work in all kinds of concepts. I really love Paperback Princess–we have read that she was 1.5. Also other books that show what a real princess can be–in a fiction picture book style are “Do Princesses..?” by Carmela LaVigna Coyle. It really shows girls about being good, kind and I think it empowers little girls.

  23. says

    So agree! I remember when I was pregnant with Charlotte “no princess stuff” and “no messy faces walking around” were my two rules. Now, I have one child with each and I have basically given up. I agree with the mom who said kids are mostly interested in the glamour of it all. When Charlotte makes funny statements about beauty, I make sure to talk about it with her and hope that is good enough. I don’t want to squish her joy and fun, so she can twirl around in an tutu or Ariel tail if that makes her happy. But, I make sure to talk to her about how beauty is not the most important characteristic by any means. Bible Stories illustrate this wonderfully, as beauty often causes corruption when that is the heiled virtue. One of her favorite “secular” books is ADVENTURES OF ISABELLE (which comes with a CD, is in the form of a poem, beautiful illustrations, and includes new vocabulary). http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Isabel-Poetry-Telling-Stories/dp/1402210272/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282147821&sr=8-1
    Here is the story (poem): http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/adventures-of-isabel/
    Good luck!

  24. says

    The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is one I bring out when things get a little too “pink” around here. I love the spunk that girl has. Also- she saves Prince Ronald only to realize he is not worth it and chucks him. Awesome. When my daughter turns towards princesses, she also tends to include dragons as well- so I feel like there is a balance there. We took out “Tell Me a Dragon” by Jackie Morris which is beautiful. Also- we’ve been finding some nice books about art lately- “Brigette’s Beret” by Tom Lichetenheld is a great one about a little girl who loves to draw.

  25. says

    Here, here for the “princesses drive me crazy”. I think it’s perfectly natural and good for little girls to want to be lovely (and they all are), but our society’s Disney versions are anything but healthy. No Disney in our house!

  26. says

    What I remember about being a little girl was that if you could be a princess, you could have power. Sure, you might marry the prince, but he would be away and busy all the time which would have suited me fine, and I would have had the kingdom as my playground, including the wishing well, a white horse, and little mice to help me button my lovely gown.

  27. Gwen says

    As my 4.5 year old sits behind me, playing with Disney Princess polly pocket dolls, with their zillions of incredibly tiny pieces, I laugh at myself. I must have said “never” too many times, because all it took was her awesome uncle taking her to see “Princess and the Frog” and she is HOOKED! Luckily, she is already super strong-minded and independent so I don’t worry about her waiting around for a prince to throw down his cape. I play along sometimes and it seems to be all about playing out human interaction. The princess is always telling the prince what to do in a really sassy voice. Right now it is OK with me as long as she still likes to play with rocks and dirt and make art!

  28. says

    I see others have already mentioned The Paperbag Princess. We have a cute book called, “The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas” by Tony Wilson & Sue deGennaro. It is a great book! Another book that we got out of the library is “Princess Peepers” by Pam Calvert & Tuesday Mourning. A neat book about a princess who should wear glasses but doesn’t and all that happens because of it.
    I think they are both nice books and sort of “anti” traditional princesses.
    Good luck. I look forward to seeing what other books you find.
    Tricia

  29. says

    My girls have a healthy balance of wanting to be faeries or princesses, and catching snakes and toads in the creek.
    I think that girls are often attracted to the glamour (beautiful twirling dress! sparking crown! magic wand!) but the stories that Disney has brought along with that are not the real stories. Yes, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella are princesses who are swept off their feet in the end, but that is a small part of the story. And these stories are not for for 5 year olds, they are stories for 9, 10 and 11 year olds. (My kids are 5, 3, and 3 and haven’t read, seen, heard these stories yet. Snow White is scary! :P)
    I love all the book recommendations! Thanks!
    ~carrie

  30. says

    My little sister (who is 28) LOVES princesses to this day. She loves the line from A Little Princess that “all girls are princesses” – her point being that every girl deserves to feel like the most important person in the world. She introduced me to the book Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? which is about how girls can be glamorous and fancy but also strong and spunky. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with princesses per se. It’s all about how you spin it. Even as grown up women, don’t we like to dress up and feel special sometimes? But that doesn’t mean we can’t also be strong.

  31. Heather N says

    My 4 year old daughter so far has managed to escape princesses. She has never seen a princess movie. She has no interest in princesses, Barbies or even dolls. She loves horses, dogs and all stuffed animals in the world. She has quite an imagination, but is also a total realist; she often informs me that the pretend dog that follows her around is imaginary (LOL!). I was totally a doll (but not princess) girl, so this is a whole new world for me. Thanks for the post. It is very interesting.

  32. says

    Fortunately for me, Meg hasn’t shown too much interest in princesses. In fact, when she catches up with friends she’s more inclined to play witches and spend her time collecting leaves and flowers and things to mix up into cakes (hasn’t even picked up on the whole magic potions thing).
    She’s decided she wants a cassowary cake for her birthday. How funny!
    Maybe you can start introducing Maia to the concept of princesses with special missions. When she plays princesses or draws princesses, ask her what is the princesses special mission. Does she save injured animals, clean up all the rubbish found along the beach, flick off all the grasshoppers eating the herbs, help small children in playgrounds… Princesses with a purpose!!!

  33. char says

    Carmine a Little More Red. It’s a children’s book that I think you’d appreciate as an artist. It’s light and playful.
    May you grow beyond your current belief system about princesses just as Maia does. (I don’t mean that there is anything wrong with your current belief system–your points are well taken.) When she’s over princesses, you will be, too, in a deep way. But until then, enjoy this lovely stage where magical thinking rules! ‘
    I wonder how she would respond if you invited her to dictate to you a princess tale that includes the traits you treasure. Knowing you through your blog, this would have to be a picture book!

  34. amanda says

    You are not alone! So far we’ve avoided princesses for the most part, but I know it’s going to happen! We really like Ladybug Girl!

  35. says

    Amen, Sistah. I have two boys but have a “princess” next door and I get princess heebejeebeez all the time. I also think it is odd how they think pink is the only color to make something for a girl. I never liked pink growing up, I’m sure there are other girls who don’t as well. I gripe that all the interesting clothes are for girls and they need to do a better job of making cool attire for the guys! We read the Franny K. Stein books a lot (my almost 5 son loves them), sounds like something your monster/princess party daughter would love. She is a mad scientist but there is a lesson in each chapter book and she is always the heroine and in control. Good stuff!

  36. says

    You must check out the book “Cinder Edna”. I love that book. I have 3 girls and I can’t stand princess stuff either. I also like Robert Munsch’s “Paper bag Princess”. Not sure if it’s available everywhere. He is a Canadian author. I’d love to know what you thought about the book if you get the chance to read them.
    I enjoy your blog immensely. Thank you for inspiring us!

  37. says

    Wow, what a lot of great comments, everyone! I agree, it is about the glamour and dressing up as much as anything probably. And yes, it’s probably a phase that will pass soon enough. Thanks for all the book recommendations! We’ve read a few of those (The Paper Bag Princess, Cinder Edna, Princess Smartypants, Kevin Henkes books), but will have to look out for the others. I always love a new list of book recommendations!

  38. Carly says

    I can’t stand Disney Princess stuff and it is not allowed in our house. I don’t see any value in it. My three and a half old daughter has no idea who any of the Disney princesses are and I take great pride in that! I encourage her to play with cars, tools, balls, etc., although as hard as I try, she still loves dressing up. That said, my incredibly boyish two year old son loves wearing tutus too! I make a very consious effort to raise them the same: they both parent their dolls with love, smash cars around the basement, paint and create, while I try to avoid gender stereotypes as much as possible.

  39. Alex says

    I love, love, love, historical stories as picture books. Emily Arnold McCully has a bunch. Her Mirette on the High Wire stories are the most common. Another few we read by other authors lately were Mailing May and The Girl on the High-Diving Horse. My only rule when K was born was No Disney Princesses, and we’ve mostly avoided them. If you present a lot of other stuff I don’t see the girly/princess thing as a big deal. I just don’t like an unadulturated someday my prince will come plot, or getting sucked into the Disney marketing machine. Or reading annoying, plotless Disney Princess products. So, I check out LOTS of books (usually we have almost 50, the limit) and read lots of non-branded princess stories once and onces having to do with lots of other things too. For a strong princess, we LOVE storyteller Sharon Kennedy’s story the Princess and the Sea Serpent off her Patchwork Quilt CD. We’ve read some with princesses who are too spoiled, whiny, etc and frighten the princes off. I’m so-so on some but The Princess Who Had Almost Everything Is Nice because the moral is about learning to entertain yourself by being creative and making stuff.
    I guess my main value with reading is just to expose my kid to a TON of stuff and support her interests. She loves The Starry Night by Van Gogh so I’m reading her every book with that in it we can find.

  40. says

    As a child, I was more into fairies than princesses. And I can understand your aversion to that Disney-esque type. (I had one Cinderella picture book that I loved, illustrated by Hillary Knight.) I had a fascination with the natural world, and all of the magical creatures that lived there — fairies, elves, gnomes. But fairies were the “girls” and they wore the pretty dresses and had beautiful wings.

  41. says

    Hello, My five year old girl loves the Princes thing and I support it. I agree with other posters that it’s the pinkness, the glamour side of it. I love the fact that you don’t like it but you support your daughter’s current love of them. That’s so lovely. xx

  42. says

    My daughter loves princesses too. It’s really Disney and all the merchandising that bugs me more than the princess thing. She has several princess dress up costumes which is fine with me. She also loves fairies so I try to encourage this more. She really loves animals and nature (which I want to encourage) and this usually features heavily in fairy stories. I got her the tinkerbelle movie to satisfy her Disney cravings without the villains and princes and royal weddings. There is an early reader called Princess Buttercup that is about a group of flower princesses (basically fairies without wings) that is a favorite right now. It’s a really simple story. The characters aren’t particularly strong but there is nothing to offend either.
    As far as non princess books, the Charlie and Lola books are wonderful. Lola is about my daughter’s age so she relates to her. She is clever and imaginative and silly and strong in her sense of self. “But I Really am an Alligator” is great. It’s all about how Lola can be anything she wants to be by playing dress up.

  43. Maria says

    As I’m reading this I’m realizing we may be out of the princess stage, or at least out of the thick of it. My basic stance has been to refuse to buy Disney/Barbie products and to make my opinions about them known without forbidding them in the house if they’re given to my girl.
    I’ve been upfront about the reason I won’t buy those brands: “I don’t want to give Disney my money.” I’ve also said I don’t want them to use her as a walking advertisement. Let me tell you – it is hard to find stuff without the Disney label, but it’s worth it to me. My daughter knows my boring and annoying policy and is pretty resigned to it, though she sometimes wishes for the Disney flipflops or whatever.
    I’ve also heard her say things like “Those Disney princesses are just SILLY. They shouldn’t even put them on stuff. Why do they do that?” Another thing I’ve done when confronted with some of the Disney girl/Barbie images is to talk about “Boy, that girl must be cold! She’s hardly wearing any clothes!” and “Let’s make that girl some lunch. She looks really hungry,” along with more straightforward conversations about how real people don’t look like that.
    Does anybody else get creeped out by the ENORMOUS eyes they give all those characters? Boys and girls alike have these weird alien bug-eyes. Dora (who I have not been able to avoid as much), the Princesses, everyone. It’s spooky.

  44. says

    Maria – I am more creeped out by the really disproportionate body images from those and Barbies (and we’ll be fighting a battle with body image the way it is!).
    Luckily, we are not as into princesses as I initially feared. While she does love Tinkerbell (who is an independent spirit at least) and Princess & The Frog (who again, has her own plans and sees them through, saving the prince in the process) we are far more into role-playing (house, school, etc.) than anything. Thank goodness!
    I love these book suggestions and will have to check them out!

  45. okgirl says

    To add another book series to the list, I love the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede. They are more young adult, but they will be great when your girls are older. They are about a really strong princess who doesn’t want to learn to dance and flirt and embroider, so she runs away TO a dragon and becomes a dragon’s assistant. She gets to practice magic, cook, and read Latin (all the things she was told proper princesses didn’t do). There’s a witch and a magician and knights and even Rumplestiltskin, but all with unexpected twists.

  46. says

    I performed at a Renaissance Festival for 7 years. My last few they cast me as nobility and I got to wear a Princess dress. I came to grips with my inner princess and you know what? I learned that being a princess is a really find pretend (although I did mine as history entertainment.) As a princess I got to wear a pretty long dress and better jewelry (alas my gems were fake) than I did during the week at my self actualized IT job. Princesses have lots of friends and you don’t have to do the chores you don’t like whether it be making your bed or rebooting a server. When you are a princess everyone is your friend even the mean girls that might make fun of you in school (as an IT person everyone is your friend only when your fix saves their project!) Some princesses have talking animal friends, a real person has a dog that barks and you don’t know what they are trying to tell you :( A real princess has to wear a corset which is hard to bend over in to tie your shoes. A pretend princess doesn’t but wears a dress with a skirt that flys out when you turn in circles! As a performer I was a princess who fought with a sword, real princesses couldn’t by law. Which makes being a pretend princess better, especially if you have monsters at your birthday party because nobody will mess with the princess! Being a princess didn’t make me a self absorbed person or less than the self actualized woman I am today (who regularly uses power tools to fix her own home thankyouverymuch.) I think sometimes being adults with knowing what we know about the world and body images and male/female roles we are ready to squash a good game of pretend that’s there just for pretend’s sake with prettier clothes.

  47. says

    They might be a bit old for her now(chapter books, and generally considered YA) but in a few years I’d definitely recommend Tamora Pierce’s books…two series deal with girls training alongside boys to become knights, three more series set in the same world also handle girls-coming-of-age(one helps animals, one helps overthrow a corrupt government, and one is in training as law enforcement), and while there are also princesses in the stories, they tend to be friends-of-main-characters rather than main characters in their own right, and even they’re awesome role-models. Sherwood Smith’s “Crown Duel” is another good YA choice as far as the non-princess-going-on-adventures-in-medieval-type-fantasy-setting, and for a similar(or slightly younger) age-range, I’d recommend the Animorphs series for girls OR boys.
    For the princess side of things, I’ll second the recommendation for The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and add on The Ordinary Princess(who runs away to live an ordinary life and seek her fortune her own way, and while she does end up marrying another royal, it’s on her own terms, he’s a general nice normal guy too, and they run off to spend time in a tree-fort type cottage at every opportunity).
    For the younger crowd, Junie B. Jones is very popular, as are the American Girl books…each set has a six-book run about a fictional girl in a particular point in American history(Colonial, Civil War, Victorian, WWII, Great Depression, 70’s, Spanish Colonial, and a couple of immigrants from different times), and each book contains notes(and often photos) in the back on interesting bits about daily life and past current events that the character would have encountered. In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that there are dolls being sold to go with the books, but also lots of craft kits(historical and otherwise), books on crafts and recipes each character would have been familiar with, and the like…and there’s plenty of room for creativity(my little sister really wanted the doll-of-a-doll from one of the stories, so I made her a replica…you can also get(much cheaper!) similar dolls sans clothes at most craft stores now, and there are lots of patterns out there for clothes for that size doll, including ones by the company that publishes the books…to make your own versions of the characters’ clothes)

  48. says

    OMG, I LOVE THAT BOOK! “Ronald, you are handsome and have beautiful clothes and perfect hair, but you are a bum.” (or something like that.)
    Highly recommended. A lot of Robert Munsch is great in terms of putting twists on expected children’s stories, for that matter.
    Thank you for this whole post and line of conversation!!

  49. Rae says

    Also, Gail Carson Levine wrote “Princess Tales” that are hilarious. They are interesting spins of well known fairy tales, but much better. Each one takes about an hour to read.

  50. jenchris says

    Hi, recently came across this book at the library with my two boys, but we love it. “Feeding the Sheep” by Leda Schubert, pictures by Andrea U’Ren. Strong female characters are Mama and little girl, who have parallel creative projects and interaction going on as we see the process of feeding the sheep to knitting a sweater with the wool. Simple words, colorful and rich illustrations.
    BTW, I’ve just found this blog and have really enjoyed checking it every day. It has inspired me to come up with a list of creative ideas for my boys and myself and working on some projects we’ve had on our wish list for a long time. Sometimes, the feeding, sleeping, resting, cleaning routine gets in the way of us getting out our creative materials. Thank you for the lift.