Positive Princess Books For Kids

by Allison McDonald
great picture books

Princess books range from amazing to unreadable. The way princesses are marketed to our children especially girls it’s hard to avoid them and even when we work hard to avoid them it seems like they sneak in somehow. I don’t want to veto all princesses just because some stories are crap and the princesses are co-dependent and lack originality. I don’t mind that my toddler already knows what a princess is or even that she pretends to be one but I want her to have a healthy view of herself and have good role models even if some are princesses . Do you have a princess book that you feel great about reading to your children? If it’s not on my list share it in comments so other readers can check it out.

princess books for girls

The Very Fairy Princessby Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton is a cute book about a little girl who loves all things princess related. What I like about this book is that it’s message isn’t heavy handed and  it celebrates princesses while sneaking in some very positive messages too. In a world where many parents ( me included) have issues with this whole princess thing and struggle to find that balance this book has it. It tells you it’s ok to want to be a princess and to “let your sparkle out!” and talks about confidence in the process. I must admit though I am a total Julie Andrews fan and I am not sure I’d ever dislike anything Maria , I mean Mary Poppins I mean Julie Andrews wrote.

The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herb Auch is really a cute re telling of the classic Princess and the Pea. They have modernized it and made it a little more feminist in the process, exactly my kind of book. The text is a little long for toddlers but my son sat through about half before wanting to go back and look at the illustration of the horse on the first page. The message is sweet, saying that a woman doesn’t need a man or marriage to attain her goals! Beware though it will make you crave pizza.

Princess Smartypants by Brenda Cole is the antithesis of the classic beautiful frail princess stories, but it still ends with happily ever after.  Princess Smartypants does her own thing and doesn’t understand why her family is so obsessed with finding her a husband. She bends to their wishes but still does things her way. I think this is a great message about happiness and confidence for girls and balances out some of the other princess stories. She was happy just the way she is and didn’t  need a spouse to feel complete.

The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke is a tale about a princess named Violet who was raised with her 3 older brothers  by her father after her mother dies in childbirth. Her brothers are trained to be knights and she to learns to joust , ride horses and sword fighting.  Her brothers ( like most) tease her and tell her that she’ll never be as strong and it’s a maid who tells her that she won’t be as strong but she can be smarter. That message stood way out for me and is why I think this is such a great book. When her father sets up a tournament for Violet’s hand in marriage she takes things into her own hands. She shows everyone how she is smarter than all the other knights and with hard work trains to  win her own hand in marriage . I love this book not only as a great empowering one for girls but also to show boys that girls don’t have to fit a specific mold either.

Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke  is a fantastic story about a little princess who is different. She is so disgusted with being perfect and pretty that she chucks her crown into the pond. I love this book and cheered throughout.  When she refuses her father’s orders he punishes her by sending her to the pigsty but she loves it and feels more at home there than in her royal chambers. I also love that her sisters who are girly , prim and proper aren’t too bully ish and seem to love their traditional roles. There is room for all sorts of princesses in this family, well eventually there is. Good book

Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose by Nancy Gow  is a story about two very different fairytale characters. They may be a prince and a princess but they are definitely different . I love the book’s rhyme ” I am what I am and that’s alright with me.” which is such a fantastic message to self acceptance and before confidence can be built we must accept who and what we are . The love story is pretty cute too, it is a fairytale after all.

Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated) by Florence Parry Heide is such a fantastic ( and funny)  fairytale about a little princess who has a very odd problem. She can’t keep her feet on the ground so her parents worried that she will literally float away weigh her down. The problem with being weighed down is that she can’t be herself and one day when she is set free to float she discovers that that is who she is. The only problem left is how does she get down? Luckily a little boy with a big heart and a kite comes to help . He’s not a rescuer coming to fix everything simply a true friend helping . I love this book and the messages of breaking free from your limitations and of being yourself while staying connected to those you love.

The Paper Princess (Picture Puffins) by Elisa Klevin was a big hit with my son. The story is about a paper princess who while being drawn by a little girl is lifted into the air and her adventure begins. As she tries to find her way back to her little girl she meets challenges and friends along the way.  I really love that the paper princess changes as she faces these obstacles and my favorite bit is that we shouldn’t crumple up a paper just because we make a mistake. As my son read that I hoped that he’d take it to heart and know I am not the only parent of a perfectionist child who needs all the help they can get to deliver that message. Imperfection is not a flaw and this book shows us that in subtle ways page after page. A true gem of a book and a great princess option with true inner beauty.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis has been talked about so much I think I had inflated expectations. Don’t get me wrong I think the message is so important and the book does a good job at introducing readers to her son who is different , to how he gets hurt when people laugh at him and how great his family is at accepting him. I like how simply blunt  the book is and it should be because the lesson should be about acceptance and allowing people, especially children to express their true self. I think I was expecting more of a story even though I knew it was non fiction. It opened a great dialog with my 5 year old son about how he would treat a male friend if they wanted to dress in a dress- good discussion at our house , worth the read for sure!

The Storytelling Princess (Picture Puffin Books) by Rafe Martin is a cute story about an independent princess who saves herself after a shipwreck and even though she ends up with the prince her parents had arranged for her to marry she does it on her own terms. Her bibliophile  prince isn’t interested in an arranged marriage either and ends up agreeing to marry if his father can find someone to tell him a story  that he doesn’t know the ending to. The princess saves herself from the sea and dressed as a sailor she ends up vying for the King’s prize by telling the prince her own story. After she reveals herself and in the end the betrothed fall in love . I love that we don’t loose the happily ever after but that the prince and princess are unique and strong .

The Monster Princess by D.J. McHale is a story about a monster Lala who so wished she could be a princess only to discover in the end that being herself is even better.  As I was reading this book I was really hoping that the three real princesses that befriend Lala would have more depth and not be the stereotypical mean girls that they are . Even after the mean princesses humiliate Lala she does the right thing and saves them when they are in danger. This book had a very predictable feel to it but I am 35 and have lived through mean girls on film many times and been on both sides of it in real life . To a young child this story is fresh and filled with good messages about doing what is right even when we are angry and hurt, discovering that what we dream about being may not be all it’s cracked up to be as well as my favorite message that there are ” All kinds of special.”

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch has enchanted me for years. I bought it while volunteering as a leader in training at a day camp when I was a teen. It’s followed me to many schools, children I babysat and finally my own son. I can’t remember one child ever not liking it. It’s a story of Elizabeth a princess who outwits a dragon to rescue her prince. I love that the author has switched the typical damsel in distress and has the princess as the heroine. Some parents have expressed concern about Elizabeth calling the prince a “Bum” in the end of the book, personally I love it. I have always used it to explain why she was so angry, and as a reminder why calling names hurt. That said I think she is totally justified !

The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray The messages in this book are deep and meaningful and it’s not at all the stereotypical princess story. In this story there are three sisters , all of whom are princesses in a barren kingdom. The kingdom wasn’t always barren but after the queen died it lost it’s livelihood.  The king is worried and asks his daughters to participate in a competition to see who will take over the kingdom . They all want to make a big impression and the older two princesses stop at nothing taking from the people of the kingdom to do it. The youngest daughter has a different approach and does amazing things with a simple apple pip. I loved that this princess was shy and ordinary but most of all I loved that she worked hard at making her kingdom lush once again especially when her sisters were letting other people do the work. I also appreciated that in this story there is no mentions of marriage just which daughter will take over the kingdom. Subtle but positive and progressive messages.

Princess in the Forest by Sibylle Von Olfers  is more than 100 years old yet my toddler absolutely loved this book.  The story is amazingly simple and the illustrations are what a fairytale should look like.  The princess is met at different times of the day by various magical children and forest creatures who care for and play with her. My daughter loves babies and The Dew Children who come to help the princess get dressed , The Moss Children who bring her food and The Star Children who illuminate her night enchanted her. She would immediately turn to each page with these angelic creatures and touch each one with her little fingers. This book doesn’t have a strong moral message but it’s simplicity is so peaceful and calming that it makes a wonderful bedtime book for young kids.

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen .This book is not so much about being different and facing adversity but about being yourself even if the world has decided you should fit perfectly into the mold it’s given you.  When we think of Princesses we think pink, sparkly and dry clean only! These princesses can’t be pigeonholed, they do what’s in their heart not what’s expected of them just because they are princesses. The princesses have all different interests, all different looks and I love that there are some with glasses too. Strong girls being themselves isn’t too different but for a book about princesses it is and it’s refreshing to read.

Did we miss your favorite princess book ? Add it to the list by leaving a comment !

 

Comments

  1. says

    I love this list! I’m always looking for positive princess role models and there are a few here that I hadn’t heard of before. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Georgine says

    We have the Very Fairy Princess book. It is cute and I should probably buy the follow up book. Thank you for the Princess list. I have a not quite 2.5 year old who is princess obsessed. She calls herself Princess Cha Cha (her name is Charley) and knows all the Disney princesses. She would live in a Belle dress if I let her. So diversifying from Disney with this list will be great. Oh and I love the Paper Back Princess. I have to get that book.

  3. says

    Wonderful list! My daughter was princess-obsessed at a young age – she’s 9 and still loves the idea of princesses so now we read biographies of real princesses. Our favorite is Princess Kaiulani who was the last princess of Hawaii.

  4. says

    Thanks for the great titles! I’ve only read The Paper Bag Princess, but they all sound great. I agree with you about resisting the princess phase, but it’s hard to do. The best we can do is give them books that promote confidence and creativity. I like how you put it: let their “sparkle” out without making them co-dependent. Good list!

  5. says

    i can’t wait to check these out.

    actually, the only princess book i have on our shelf is one littlegirl got when she was born by a friend. it’s called “Do Princesses wear Hiking Boots?” . it’s a simple rhyming picture book of a little girl who asks (we assume she’s a “princess” as in the typical term these days) if she still gets to have fun. one time she asks if princesses have to eat veggies. once, she asks if they ever snort when they laugh.
    it ends with a little mirror for your own “princess”

    (we avoid even ever calling our daughter a princess. littlegirl liked looking in the mirror when she was a baby; but honestly, i don’t even think she “gets” the whole concept of her being a “princess” so she just thinks that’s a neat page. and ends it.)

  6. says

    This is awesome! I don’t have a girl but I’m not blind to the princess craze going on in marketing and media. It’s good to know that princesses don’t always have to be a certain type and that maybe they’re not all that bad.

  7. says

    What a great list! Thanks, I needed it! Girls didn’t used to be so princess obsessed as they are these days. My two eldest girls, aged 19 and 17, never were so obsessed and no one ever asked them who their favorite princess was. Now with my three year-old daughter, people are constantly asking her who her favorite princess is or if she likes princess stickers or if she is going to be a princess for Halloween and so forth. She used to be quite confused by this as she has not watched all the Disney movies, since they scare her (not to mention, who suddenly made it a law that every girl has to watch all of the Disney princess movies!?!?!). So now my daughter is obsessed with princesses and fairy tales, though she still hasn’t watched all of the Disney movies as they still scare her. She has seen Tangled and that is it. It’s a touchy subject for me, if you can’t tell.

  8. says

    Thank you – much appreciated for my princess-obsessed 3-year-old girl. If I have to read another Disney storybook I may barf!

    She does love Gigi, God’s Little Princess. It is a series and teaches that little girls are God’s little princesses and are perfect the way He made them. A must if you’re trying to teach those lessons! There is a boy version too: Will, God’s Mighty Warrior.

  9. says

    This is a great list! Thank you for compiling it. I asked me library to pull a bunch of princess books for me awhile ago. Most of these weren’t on their list, but they have them on the shelves.

  10. says

    Thank you for a wonderful list. I have been looking for books like this. I will be buying many of them as I want my two boys to have a positive view of women.

  11. Loretta says

    I like your list a lot. I am something of a hoarder of children’s books. Here is one more I like, “Do princesses wear hiking boots?” Thanks for the list.

  12. Julie says

    I am so excited to read many of these books with my kids. Especially the Princess in the Forest! I have read a few that you had listed here…the paper bag princess and the very fairy princess and loved them as you did, so I can’t wait to get the others from the library. Thank you so much for sharing this list!

  13. says

    One of the favorite princess books that my daughters and myself like is a remake of the Princess and the Pea. What I love is that it is a DVD/Book combo and is in sign language. Most of all, the Princess is not a “Dainty” princess like in the original one. I am excited to check out the others you have listed here!!

  14. says

    Lots of my favourites are in that list and some new ones. My daughter likes the idea of princesses but we have never watched a Disney movie so we have escaped most of the obsession but she does see stuff in the shops with Disney Princesses and declares we have to have it becuase it is for girls (ie her bowling set at home is not for girls because it doesn’t have princesses on it). When she was littler (she is 3.3 yrs old) I would have to declare that her pants were princess pants because they were purple or had a pink heart on them.

    Two books we like are “The Princess and the Perfect Dish” by Libby Gleeson which is quite a traditional tale but the task the princes have to do to win her hand is cook and she is drawn as being quite voluptuous and she ends up marrying a poor musician and they live happily every after – eating!

    Our other favourite book, though not really about a princess, is “Emily and the Dragon” by Lyn Lee, a little girl and her pet hen who LOVE dancing but set off to fight the dragon to prove her brother wrong that girls can fight dragons. Along the way she meets a witch and a knight who both want to break the stereotypes – the witch wants friends and the knight wants to knit. She finds a dragon but the dragon doesn’t want to fight because the dragon loves dancing.

  15. says

    If you are looking for christian princess books the Princess Parables are excellent. Their mission is to Build Character and Virtue into the Hearts of Children around the world through Princess Stories. My daughter loves Princess Grace and the lost kitten, Princess Charity’s Courageous Heart, and Princess Joy’s Birthday Blessing.

    • K.P. says

      Thank you! I’m looking forward to reading and sharing these with the students in the reading program. I’m sure it will encourage them that “they can do all things…” Great deal!

  16. Heidi says

    Doesn’t have princess in the title, but “Zog” by Julia Donaldson features a princess who would rather be a doctor. Plus it is just a great book.

  17. kim says

    Thought it might be interesting to pair your choice of Princess books with the Princess Project-My daughter volunteered and had a lot of fun with the -Princess Project- was held at large San Diego County Libraries -gave away FREE Prom gowns,make overs,jewelry,shoes ect. to young women and their families who were unable to afford a dress for the prom. Perhaps they have young sisters at home who might enjoy a princess book-just an idea.

    • admin says

      That’s a very interesting connection – I may have to contact the library. Even just a reading buddy program would be a cool tie in!

  18. says

    Some of our favorite princess books are I’d be Your Princess by Kathryn O’Brien, The Princess Parables series by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson, The Princess Twins series by Mona Hodgson, and Tea for Ruby by Sarah Ferguson. As an added bonus the princesses in all of these stories are kids!

    We also like the Barbie princess stories. Of course she looks like the typical princess, but she is usually the clever one who solves the problem.

  19. Shawn says

    LOVE this list! One of my favorite topics. A couple more of my favorites–I love Kate Lum’s “Princesses Are Not Quitters” and “Princesses Are Not Perfect”. Twenty-six princesses by Dave Horowitz is a fun alphabet book filled with princesses of ALL kinds. And Tony Ross has a series (8?) of princess books with all titles starting “I Want….”. In “I Want Two Birthdays”, the princess quickly finds out why one birthday is just enough. Thanks for the post.

  20. Babsie says

    My absolute favorite is the Plain Princess by Phyllis McGinley. A spoiled nose in the air princess is sent to live with a loving mother figure in the countryside to learn to be a good person.

  21. says

    The Secret Lives of Princesses (http://secretlivesofprincesses.com/) is absolutely brilliant. Its definitely above the level of a “sit down” read for toddlers, but its really fun and funny. My 4 year old niece adores this book (although I think I adore it more!)

    Also, not really about being a princess, but starring a very luck one, is the book Lullabyhullaballoo (http://www.amazon.com/Lullabyhullaballoo-Mick-Inkpen/dp/0340626860). Mick Inkpen is brilliant and the book is super sweet and simple. Definitely a favorite in my classroom.

  22. says

    Thank you so much for this list! It is truly a gift. My daughter is 2 1/2 and loves the idea of being a princess. In reality she has no idea what it means and almost no context other than sparkly dresses and fancy shoes. We are NOT doing the Disney princess thing in our family but I want to allow her imagination to soar! These books will be her holiday gifts this year. THANK YOU!!

  23. Sarah Blakeley says

    ‘Princesses Are Not Quitters’ and ‘Princesses Are Not Perfect’ by Kate Lum definitely fit the bill!

  24. Lydia says

    Cinder Edna is the best! Also, for a young reader, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede are fantastic!!! The first book is called Dealing With Dragons. This list is great because there’s a handful I didn’t know! Thanks so much for sharing with all of us!

  25. Michelle says

    I am so glad I found this list. My 3 year-old is obsessed with all things Princess and I’m looking to add some quality stories.

    Another for your list is “The Tough Princess” by Martin Waddell.

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