In reading the comments on my last post on princess culture, I began to think even more about my love/hate relationship with princesses.
In reading the post again and watching my oldest daughters perform a full out dance routine to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan for their baby sister, I concluded two things. First, I am okay with princesses and most princess stories. And 2) I like musicals. I mean, I already thought I knew this last one. But it was indeed confirmed in thinking more about the Disney princesses and why my daughters at just two and three know the words to most major Disney’s major princess show tunes and not the story lines.
I don’t mind pink and tulle and the long flowing hair. My problem pivots on how I think my daughters relate to traditional princesses and how they see themselves through the lens of “princess.” I am okay with my girls wearing princess dresses and fighting over who gets the one discolored, kid-sized pink plate at lunch time. But I’m not okay when my oldest daughter tells me that the reason that she can’t wear curly hair or go down the long, twisty slide at the park is because “princesses don’t do that.”
And that’s what I take issue with.
If I were a (toy maker, tv show producer, author, advertiser), I would create messages against that one, or the one that tells little girls that princesses do “x” and not “y” because “y” is for (fill in the blank with boys, gremlins, blah blah).
If I were a (fill in the blank), I would show all the things that princesses can do. I would give my princesses curls and denim jeans and a soccer ball and have them live like real girls do.
Surely there is a (fill in the blank) out there who agrees with me, I thought, after thinking about that post.
So with that I set out to find books, shows, movies, etc. that would satisfy my daughters’ hunger for princess anything and my hunger for substance.
I put this manifesto out into the world and lo and behold, I (or really my daughters) were given this book (from their dear aunt) , called, “Not All Princesses Dress in Pink” by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple.
Don’t you just love the cover?
I know I do, but at first glance, my oldest daughter didn’t. “It’s too black!” she said.
But, alas, we (or really I, since that first time I read it, she ran into another room to kick a ball) read it anyway and
she and I both loved it.
Along with preaching a wonderful message to girls about the many things that princesses can do, things like kick a ball and play in dirt and wear red, this book is loved by me because:
-It’s well written and appropriate for even younger audiences, i.e., the vocabulary is appropriate and there are not too many words per page.
-The illustrations are colorful and the girls are real-looking (i.e., they eat food, have proportionate bodies, and, sometimes, wear glasses and untied shoes).
-It’s kind of edgy. Yes, who knew that princesses could wear golden sparkly crowns and dance in the rain with their pets? I mean, I did, but I don’t think my daughters did.
So, I love this book.
And, with time and careful naptime reading selections on my part, they are learning to love it, too.
My two year old picked it out for her bedtime book and my oldest appeared to listen and laugh when I read it. I think she, or my oldest daughter, has been slow in her reception of the new kinds of princesses of this book because, perhaps, I was too eager in my promotion of this princess book.
Like new foods, I’ve learned that to get my children to voluntarily do and like most alternative things that are good for them, it’s usually best that I pretend anything on the range of aloofness to contempt.
“Oh, here’s a princess book for you,” I should have said, rather than reading the title and smiling like I was in on a secret.
Yes…but I digress. As I write this, my two girls are on the floor reading it together, so all is not lost.
I love this book and that it’s just the kind of innocent propaganda that I support with young girls.
If you have girls (or boys) who love princesses and pink and tulle, I highly recommend “Not All Princesses Dress in Pink.”
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Or, do you have any other non-traditional princess books to recommend?