Princess books range from amazing to unreadable. Princesses are marketed to our children especially girls it’s hard to avoid them. And 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 of Princess books below, share it in the comments so other readers can check it out.
The Very Fairy Princess by 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 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. I think 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 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 too learns to joust, ride horses, and sword fighting. Her brothers (like most) tease her and tell her that she’ll never be as strong as them. It’s a maid who tells her that she may not 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 mean 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”. This is such a fantastic message to self-acceptance. That 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, who worried that she will literally float away, weigh her down. The problem with being weighed down is that she can’t be herself. One day when she is set free to float she discovers 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. Just a true friend helping. I love this book and the message of breaking free from your limitations. Learning to be yourself while staying connected to those you love.
The Paper Princess (Picture Puffins) by Elisa Kleven 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 the little girl she meets challenges and friends along the way. I really love that the paper princess changes as she faces these obstacles.
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 important and the book does a good job at introducing readers to her son who is different. She’s open with how his feelings are 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 did it on her own terms. Her bibliophile prince doesn’t want an arranged marriage either. But he 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. She reveals herself and in the end the betrothed fall in love. I love that we don’t lose 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. That discovering 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 the 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 its 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. Even 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 trying to see 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 fairy tale should look like. The various magical children and forest creatures come at different times of the day to care for and play with the princess. 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. It’s 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!
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