The reason why I didn’t want to buy my daughter Cinderella’s story a year ago was a matter of saving her from becoming just another victim of the princess industrial complex. It’s a sad fact, but, if you are raising a young girl, at some point, there’s a better than average chance that you’ll have to deal with the horror of the princess culture. The cult to pink and the princess book genre are amazing things to observe and analyze. I personally have no idea how come there are so many stories about princesses waiting to be saved and to live happily ever after marriage. It must have come from some sort of a collective conscious dreaming from the past, kept alive by Disney and grandparents’ story telling habits, which now with emancipation and the fourth wave of feminism are slowly changing the way our children fantasize about their collective future as women.
And despite that the Pink Dress Movement seems to me far from any death threat, I have to admit with great relief that finally its heart and soul are slowly transforming. It won’t be long before we realize that the princess fashion and behavior habits are going to change as well. The proof can be found in some fabulous books with beautifully creative and whimsical illustrations that tease children’s imagination into a different path of thinking and dreaming of their own future.
Today I’d like to share some great examples of such books designed and written for Parents Who Really, Really Dislike Princess Books:
- One of my favorite and most visually arresting princess book that I’ve ever seen, and my daughter does love flipping through the pages and marveling at the beautiful artwork, is The Secret Lives of Princesses. The text is pretty fantastic as well. Lechermeier has created this extremely unique catalog of different kinds of princesses and none of them are the traditional damsel-in-distress sort.
There’s Princess Paige, the librarian; Princess Primandproper, with the permanently pinched face; and, beyond the wordplay (and the book is packed TIGHT with wordplay), you’ll find unusual princesses from all over the world. That fact alone makes this an essential princess read because finding a book that actually includes African princesses, Native American princesses, Indian princesses, Latina princesses, and Asian princesses, standing aside their Anglo-Saxon cousins, is next to impossible. Yes, this is more of a coffee table art book than a storybook and, no, I can’t actually imagine sitting down and reading this to my kid back to front. BUT I do love leaving this one out on her bookshelf for her to discover and watching as she pages through the strange and beautiful variety of princesses that the world has to offer. (Age range: 7 and up – however, much, much younger children will have fun leafing through the pages and marveling at the paintings.)
- Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B. Williams, is another favorite story of my daughter and myself in which the irresistible heroine Bedemmi loves to draw pictures with colored markers and write stories that always start “”with the word THIS.” Exquisitely decorated and deceptively simple, this book is another glowing tale of the transformational power of a child’s creativity and love. The book’s title refers to Bedemmi’s stories all of which involve people “eating cherries and spitting out the pits, eating cherries and spitting out the pits.” What about all those pits? Bedemmi has an “important plan.” She will plant them in her yard so they will grow “until there is a whole forest of cherry trees right on our block.”. Age range 4 to 8
Vera B. Williams is the creator of two other great children’s books: A Chair for My Mother and Something Special for Me. All Illustrated by Vera B. Williams
- Tar Beach is an award-winning children’s book from 1991, written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold, an Africa-American artist and author, born in 1930 in Harlem, New York City. She is best known for her large, painted story quilts. As a child, she was taught to sew fabrics creatively by her mother, a professional fashion designer; and to make quilts by her great-great-grandmother. Ringgold’s great-great-great grandmother had been a slave in her younger years, and made quilts for her white masters.
In 1988 Ringgold made one of her quilt stories centering on an eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who takes flight from her family’s Harlem rooftop and sets off to explore New York City from above. Three years later the artist wrote a children’s story with the same topic illustrating a Depression era girl’s imaginative foray to heights from which she can see and therefore claim her world. Picnicking on the roof of her family’s Harlem apartment building–a “tar beach” to which they bring fried chicken and roasted peanuts, watermelon and beer, and, not least, friends and laughter–Cassie pictures herself soaring above New York City: above the George Washington Bridge, which her father helped build; above the headquarters of the union that has denied him membership, because he’s black; above the rooms in which they live. Ringgold’s strong figures and flattened perspective bring a distinctive magic to this dreamy and yet wonderfully concrete vision, narrated in poetic cadences that capture the language and feel of flight. Age range 4-8
Check out more books for kids, illustrated by famous artists on Artsy
and here are more books for parents who are not fans of the princess culture.