March 2, 2016

princess books (when you need a break from Disney!)...

princess books (when you need a break from Disney!) |
I've never been an anti-princess mama. I grew up pretending to be a princess, dreaming of becoming a princess, and dancing around to the usual Disney soundtrack of the classic fairy tales we all grew up with. I can think of far worse things to fill the imagination of a little girl. (My friend, Erin, wrote a wonderful post on this subject a few years ago, which I still think about today, as we continue to navigate these waters—or, you know, tiaras.)

Of course, as a parent, I definitely get a bit eye-rolly when I read those classic tales to my older daughter, especially when Ariel disobeys her dad (only to get exactly what she wanted) and the prince falls in love with Snow White (after seeing her for all of five seconds) and Cinderella is chosen by the prince to be his wife and they live happily ever after (after literally spending a couple hours together dancing). However, I've found that reading these stories with my older daughter often leads to a good dialogue between us, and I often clarify the lessons and themes of the stories to be a bit more true-to-life.

"Why do you think Ariel's dad is mad?"
"She didn't listen or obey."
"He wants to keep her safe, doesn't he? He's not just being mean. He wants her to obey so she doesn't get hurt."
"Yeah, he's kind of mean."

Ah, well. Time to take a break from The Little Mermaid for a while, CLEARLY.

Books are such a big thing for me, and reading stories together is something we've done since Eisley (now four and a half!) was just a tiny little nugget. We've been avid library patrons for years now, and one rule I'm glad to have put in place (long before it would become an argument) was this: only one Disney princess book allowed during each trip.

When she was about three, I realized that if she had her way, she would walk out with a stack of Disney princess and Tinkerbell books and be happy as a clam, not having any idea what she was missing out on. It makes sense, after all—these were characters she was familiar with already, and was excited to see them on the cover of book after book. However, once I implemented the one-Disney-book rule, it became the norm. (And I was glad to no longer have to read so many of those books out loud. They're not the best.) Eisley knows she can select one Disney book during each trip, and we work on expanding her literary horizons outside of the familiar stories she has seen played out on DVD, over and over and over again.

Now, as much as I like to limit the actual Disney princess books we consume as readers, I definitely like to find other princess books that have much more engaging, unique stories for my daughter to discover.

The list I'm sharing today has been a work-in-progress for a while! As we've found new favorites from the library, I've kept a running list that now has enough goodness to share. I know there are many, many other books of this kind out there, and I'd love for you to share any that have been enjoyed by your own families! I'm always excited to receive recommendations. Always, always.

As for us, here is a list of books we've discovered during the past year (or so) that have been favorites to both listen to and read:
princess books (when you need a break from Disney!) |
1. Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman — We don't often check out books more than once from the library, but this one has made the cut twice in the past several months! It's a sweet story about a girl who wants to be chosen as a princess for a school parade. As she's trying to figure out what sort of costume she'd want to wear, her teacher tells the class stories of princesses from all over the world—and very few of them wear the typical princess dresses! I love how this teaches girls that princesses can be brave and adventurous, and that there is definitely more than one kind.

2. Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox — The cheeky little rhymes in this book had Eisley giggling every time I read it. It's pretty funny, and I love how they kind of make fun of the princess (who doesn't even end up being the one the prince falls for!).

3. Princesses on the Run by Smiljana Coh — I think this will forever be one of my favorite princess books. Each of the classic princesses in this story runs away and discovers something else she'd like to do (becoming a hair stylist, a designer, yoga instructor, a runner). It may seem a little silly, but when you read it you'll find the charm in this sweet story. The illustrations are gorgeous, too!

4. Princess Says Goodnight by Naomi Howland — This is a fun book to read before bedtime (and I do love a good bedtime-themed book). The girl in the story is headed to bed, and she imagines each of her family members as part of a royal court. Very sweet story!

5. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch — This book was recommended by a good friend who is also a school teacher! She loves to include it in her own classroom library. My daughter wasn't interested in it at first (she's more of a sucker for a somewhat-sparkly cover) but after reading it together it she requested it again and again! It's definitely one of those a-princess-can-rescue-herself stories.

6. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson — We read this every day for a couple weeks when we checked it out from the library. And would you believe I was never tired of reading it? The illustrations are adorable, and the story features many of the familiar princesses. Each of them is unhappy with their own reality, and switches with another princess—only to realize that what she had wasn't so bad after all, it just needed a few slight changes. Very cute!

7. Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen — This one wasn't my personal favorite, because it was very much SPARKLES AND PINK BE GONE. (I don't necessarily think one needs to shame a little girl who is the stereotypical princess-lover…tutus and crowns and pretend makeup and all. There is a happy medium, after all.) Still, it's a fun read, and shows girls that you can still be rough-and-tumble…and still wear a tiara, if you want!

8. Princess Pig by Eileen Spinelli — I found this story to be very sweet. In it, a regular ol' barnyard pig wakes up one day, thinking she's a princess. (A parade princess, thanks to a sash that landed on her!) She does all the things she thinks she should, and finally realizes that it's not all it's cracked up to be. We read this many times, over and over.

If you have any recommendations, please share! We are always in the market for a good princess story. Plus, I figure one of these days my daughters will be requesting some sort of dystopian novels full of intense plot lines and I will miss the days of good ol' picture books filled with a happily ever afters. Right? Right.

Further reading: a few favorite books for age three

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  1. I put some recommendations on your instagram post before reading this so now I know you've read Princesses on the Run (love that book) but check out the other two! I'm especially a fan of Interstellar Cinderella.

  2. The Worst Princess is fabulous.

  3. Oh my gosh, the Paper Bag Princess was one of my favorites growing up. I need to look around and see if I still have a copy (or buy one if I don't)!

  4. Oooh, definitely going to check some of these out. I see someone already mentioned it, but I was going to add Interstellar Cinderella! I LOVE that one. Might have something to do with me being an aerospace engineer. ;)


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