Non Traditional Princess Books for Girls - The Paper Bag Princess
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A Tale of Two Princesses :: Princess Books for Girls

The Paper Bag Princess

The Paper Bag Princess is not exactly a new book (it has been around for almost 20 years), but it’s one that we read a lot in our house.

It’s a fun story, so Maia likes it, and it portrays the princess as proactive and smart, so I like it.

Here’s an interior photo of the spunky princess outsmarting the dragon:

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

The princess seeks out the dragon in his lair after he burns down the castle and carries away the prince. She outsmarts the dragon by playing to his big ego and having him show off how fast he can fly and how much fire he can breathe.

In the end he’s completely exhausted and she’s able to rescue the prince (who turns out to be not such a great catch).

Princess hyacinth book

Here’s another princess book we’ve been reading and enjoying—Princess Hyacinth: the Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated.

This one is pretty new. It’s only been out for a few months now.

JeansPics_03-2010_Pic0115

It’s a fun story as well, although much more of a traditional princess story in that the princess plays a relatively passive role (she floats!) and in the end she’s rescued by a boy.

As much as we like Princess Hyacinth, I’d love to find more books like The Paper Bag Princess that portray the female as strong and smart. Any recommendations?

Update: We’ve since read many great books that fit the bill and here’s a list of some of our favorites:

Non Traditional Princess Books to Empower our Girls

This post contains affiliate links.

47 Comments

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    utbtkids
    March 8, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Hello Jean, I have been following your blog for smetime now. I also blog as a part of https://www.saffrontree.org/
    a book blog for kids literature.
    We had a discussion about no-so-royal-princesses. Paper bag princess is my personal favorite at home. A friend did a post on powerful female leads in kid-lit and this is the link. Follow the comments for more more interesting book suggestions.
    https://www.saffrontree.org/2009/10/heres-to-girl-power_04.html

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    Sommer
    March 8, 2010 at 9:42 am

    we JUST discovered the paper bag princess a couple of weeks ago, and i am in love. i can’t wait to see what recommendations you get!!

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    Michelle
    March 8, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Try the Princess Knight… I don’t remember who wrote it, but it’s got a strong princess figure.

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    [email protected]
    March 8, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I read the Country Bunny by Du Bose Heyward as a young girl and have been reading it to my two daughters (4 and 2 yo) lately in anticipation of Easter. The heroine is a bunny not a princess, but she’s definitely a strong female who’s a mom to boot!

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    nina
    March 8, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I recommend The Paper Princess by Elisa Klevin (all her books are fantastic and beautiful!). I love your blog by the way; great ideas.

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    The Artful Parent
    March 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Good article. Thanks! I’ll look for those books in our library.

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    The Artful Parent
    March 8, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the link to the book list! I’ll definitely check those out.

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    jennlui
    March 8, 2010 at 7:48 am

    hello! i’ve just discovered your lovely blog this morning through mayamade, and have myself been on a quest lately to find more female positive princess books for my little daughter. she’s full swing into princess mode and i stumbled onto this article in my local paper. i found that they were really great book suggestions so will pass it on to you:
    https://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/parenting/Books+with+feisty+females+offer+antidote+Ariels+Belles+Snow+Whites/2432400/story.html
    i hope this helps, enjoy!
    happy monday!

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    CatieP
    March 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Smart girls abound in Robert Munch’s books – I liked Angela’s Airplane; Stephanie’s Ponytail; Murmle Murmle Murmle; and there’s got to be more… Perhaps even Pigs…

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    molly
    March 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    How funny, I’ve been meaning to compile a list of books like this and see what else is out there. So far we like Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson, Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke, The Queen who Couldn’t Bake Gingerbread by Dorothy Van Woerkom, and my most recent favorite find from the library, Rumplestiltskin’s Daughter by Diane Stanley. Happy reading.

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    Maria
    March 8, 2010 at 9:49 am

    We just discovered the Paper Bag Princess, and we love it too!

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    ailikate
    March 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Short answer: Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman, Mary Pope Osborne’s stories and someday, The Enchanted Forrest Chronicals by Patrica Wrede.
    Long answer: my comment was getting so long I wrote my own post on the topic! I don’t normally post links back to my blog, but I found I had a lot to say on this subject, so here it is:
    https://tinybridges.com/?p=284
    Also, the comments here are great, I’ve already ordered several books from the library and have added several more to our “soon” list. Thanks!

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    Ginger Carlson
    March 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    My favorite strong female character is Kate O’Sullivan in the book O’Sullivan Stew! It might be a little long yet, but one to certainly check out as Maia grows!

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    The Artful Parent
    March 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Wow! Thanks for all the ideas!

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    Christy
    March 8, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    If I may add one more to your list…. Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield. It’s rather classic fairy tale in structure, however it has an unexpected ending, with a wonderful message at its heart: kindness and compassion will give you the greatest rewards. The focus is not specifically on a strong/smart princess, but it has such a great message overall that I thought it was worth a mention. My daughter is not much older than yours, and she loves this!

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    brenda
    March 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Jane and the beanstalk (fabilous twist), Cinderella (cowboy cinderella)- oh there are so many more but I have to get my list from school. We read a whole planner (kindergarten) on fairy tales- most of them with a “twist” so we can have fun with th similarities and differences. I ordered several of the book suggestions from former posts -my library did not have them :-(- the illustrations are gorgeous and my girls love the stories. Thank you!We also love science experiements- We just enjoyed salad spinner art- quite the kinethetic experience and boy did they love it. We also have a bunch of surface tension experiments that kiddos love to do over and over (pepper sprinkled on water, milk with a few drops of food coloring). On both use a straw or pipe cleaner dipped in liquid soap and touch it to the surface (say your magic word!). Enjoy!!

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    Jennifer
    March 8, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    The Princess and the Pig by Heather Amery is a hit in our house. She kisses the pig and he turns into a prince but she would rather have a pig so she kisses him back into a pig.

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    Carrie at Rhubarbsky
    March 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I grew up with The Practical Princess and Tatterhood.
    My 5 year old daughter is just now starting to ask for princess stories. I haven’t read those two books to her yet, I want to preview them again as it’s been about 25 years since I’ve looked at them! But, we’ve enjoyed Lauren Child’s version of The Princess and the Pea. It’s not quite as “liberated” as some of these other tales, but the art is lovely and she’s updated the story well. I’m excited to check out these other princess stories too! What a great topic!

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    Alex
    March 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Picture book biographies rock for this. My 2-year-old can do REALLY long ones under certain circumstances, like when she first wakes up. I love Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became he World’s Fastest Woman by Katherine Krull. My daughter, at 2 3/4 now, just fell in love with Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey. I found that on
    https://www.biographybreak.blogspot.com/ which is a section of https://www.planetesme.com/, a great place to find reviews of excellent new children’s books.

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    Barbara Zaborowski
    March 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I found Paperbag Princess quite by accident over 25 years ago (my daughter just turned thirty!). It was not only an instant favorite with both of us, but lead us to Robert Munsch’s many other wonderful books. I’m going to have to bookmark this page to save all the great book ideas.

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    michelle
    March 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    try princess smartypants by babette cole; its another great one!

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    Quince and Quire
    March 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I am looking forward to reading some of these new-to-us books that other commenters have suggested. We, too, have enjoyed the Paper Bag Princess. I’ve sought out updated versions of classic princess tales, many of which are quite nice, but of course the plots remain focused on marriage. It never seems to be about getting one’s degree in mechanical engineering, does it?

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    The Orchard
    March 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Oops, I see that someone else also recommended this book too.
    Tricia

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    Missy
    March 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I was just thinking about this book the other day. My daughter would love it. It’s so empowering (unlike the current trend in books….**ahem** Twilight **ahem**) where the lead female essentially sleeps through the most important climactic scenes in the novel. I’ll never get the current fascination with that movie. Now, Robin Mckinley…..there are some seriously proactive female characters in her books. One of her more recent, Sunshine, predates the whole “sparkly” vampires of Stephanie Meyer and provides us with a leading character who kicks some butt and uses her brain (really, she does it both at the same time!!)…. Why am I still talking?? Okay, Bottom line. This world needs more Robert Munsch. And less Stephanie Meyer.

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    Elizabeth
    March 8, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    “Princess Knight” was written by Cornelia Funke, who also wrote “Pirate Girl” and “Princess Pigsty”. The latter is one of my daughter’s go-to books, even though she loves all things Disney Princesses. The story is about a little girl who is tired of being taken care of and would rather live with the pigs. It’s a cute and funny picture book, so probably a good fit for a child the age of your daughter.

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    Jodi
    March 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Paperbag Princess is just a classic! We love reading this book. Our new Princess Book, is the Kiss That Missed. It was read by our Princess Babysitter for my daughter’s 3rd birthday (A Princess and Knight Theme) and was a hit as well. It’s not a “strong woman theme” but it’s not your average “rescue the princess story”, it’s silly and cute.

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    The Orchard
    March 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Princess Smartypants is a book that my daughters like although Maia might be a little young for it yet? Here is a review of the book so you can decided:
    https://www.cherylrainfield.com/picture-book-review_Princess-smartypants.html
    Tricia :)

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    The Artful Parent
    March 9, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Oh, Sarah, you made me laugh!

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    The Artful Parent
    March 9, 2010 at 6:28 am

    I guess it’s older than 20 years, then!

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    Jeannette Jones
    March 9, 2010 at 8:37 am

    This isn’t a story so much. But I got it for a little girl friend of ours. A is for Abigail. And ABC book of women in American History. So obviously Abigail Adams starts it all off. I thought it was nicely put together. And provides a greater historical context of women doing great things in our country.

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    Kerry
    March 9, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Another cute one is “I like Myself” about a little girl and what she’d like to be but ends up wanting to be herself most of all. Great artwork too.

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    Lisa
    March 9, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Our bookstore recommended Paper Bag Princess for my nearly 4yr old’s princess and knight themed birthday party next weekend. I love it, but when I read it to her she didn’t understand why the princess wouldn’t still marry the prince (ugh) then the second time I had to replace Prince Ronald with Prince “her current crush at school”
    UGH! I’ve got a tough case here.
    Thanks for the recommendations – we’ll work our way through them this summer.

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    utbtkids
    March 9, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Brenda, I was trying took up Cowboy Cinderella and Jane and the bean stalk on Amazon, but couldn’t find any. Can you give more details, like the author name. The cowboy Cinderella sounds very interesting.

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    Aimee
    March 9, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Books like the Paper Bag Princess make me wish I had a little girl! I used to read it to my little sister, and I should definitely have a copy in the house for my son (just so he knows not to be like the prince!)

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    jbe
    March 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    The Well at the End of the World by Robert D. San Souci. Stumbled on this at the library last week. There is a marriage at the end, but focus on why they love each other — not just because she’s a princess.

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    natalie
    March 9, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Whoa! That’s some feedback! Please let us know if you find any good ones from the gynormous list there:)

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    andrea
    March 10, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Yes, yes, yes, Cornelia Funke and The Princess Knight is all about a kick ass princess. I’m sure someone already mentioned it. She also wrote Pirate Girl and The Wildest Brother (which my boys like a lot). The older sister is the secret strong character in that one also with the boy appearing as the protagonist, in the end he draws strength from his big sister. We love both of the books you mentioned and just returned Princess Hyacinth, so cute in many ways, but yes, more traditional and in other ways fell into stereotype with a girl so light she floats. That whole thin/tiny/disappearing/invisible factor in girl characters is something we try to generally avoid but its so hard to do. Still, what can I say, I enjoyed it-it was cute!!

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    meghan
    March 10, 2010 at 8:44 am

    One of my favorites is Fanny’s Dream by Caralyn Buehner, my daughter is the same age as Maia so it’s a book she could enjoy right now. We picked it out at the end of a summer reading program as a free book and it accidently became an all time favorite. Enjoy!

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    Carrie at Rhubarbsky
    March 12, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    We just got this book from the library and *love* it. A fantastic *true* story about a girl with moxy. The art is spectacular. My girl wants to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, B.C. now!
    Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! by Shana Corey

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    sadez
    March 12, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    I would like to add Little Red Cowboy Hat (by Susan Lowell — not a princess tale, but a good strong-females twist on a classic) and The Apple-Pip Princess (by Jane Ray — an all-time favorite!) to the list… and, a recommendation to check out books by Barefoot Books publishers – lots of good, atypical books to be found there.

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    Megret
    March 12, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Though it’s not a princess book, Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst fits that mold — we love it.

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    Terri
    March 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    The Princess and the Pizza!! :)

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    Fun Mama - Deanna
    March 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Have you read “Does a Princess Wear Hiking Boots?” I like that it incorporates all kinds of roles that girls can have.

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    Zoe @ Playing by the book
    March 17, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Hi Jean,
    Just in case you needed even more books to look for I found this today:
    https://thehappynappybookseller.blogspot.com/2010/03/strong-and-smart-female-protagonist.html

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    bronwyn
    March 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    What a great topic! My 3 1/2 year old is way into the princess thing and I’ve been on the look out for better princessy role models. I’m excited about the list I have compiled from the comments here. I just ordered The Princess in the forest and hope it’s a good one. It’s not so much about a strong female lead as it is about teaching a love of nature and the rhythms of the day. The princess is simply clothed and does not promote consumerism. We have Princess Hyacith and it is absolutely our current favorite. I don’t see it as about her being saved by a boy though. I see it as her being different and making it work for her. I love that “the problem of floating was never solved” because it is who she is and what makes her different. She finds a boy who loves her for who she is and is happy to let her be who she is and wait for her while she is off having her own adventures free from the constraints of being a princess. It is a really special book. I am excited to read many of the suggestions here. Thanks for this post. :)

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    Christina
    April 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I know I’m very late in commenting, but I thought you might be interested in a few of our favorites. I noticed a lot of picture book recommendations. Some longer read-aloud books include Roald Dahl’s Matilda (better for age 6-7); Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s Little House books (we started reading these at ages 4-5); Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking; and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. Other (less literary) series include Judy Moody and Ivy + Bean. These are all great for 4-6 year olds. Enjoy!

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    JennyRebecca
    June 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I think you and Maia might really like this version of The Princess and The Pea by Lauren Child. The book’s illustrations are photographs of paper dolls on beautiful little sets.
    https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Pea-Lauren-Child/dp/B0014JUGIM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275943545&sr=1-1

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