I have a friend who believes that your favorite book from childhood says a lot about who you are as an adult. Now it may just be that I have very nerdy friends, but I do think that three of my favorite books showcase the kind of characters I love. I have never been the girliest of girls, but when I look at my bookshelf I see evidence of more than a few princesses. But don’t worry, they are not just any royals.
A favorite and much loved book from early childhood is Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess. In the story, the heroine is the one who has to save her prince from a dragon–a role reversal that any independent woman can get behind. Even more enchanting is the wit and intelligence she employs to save her beloved and SPOILER ALERT!!! the smarts she uses to drop him at the story’s end when he proves less than charming. She is an excellent model of critical thinking and at a young age, the princess I hoped I would be.
As I grew into darker, wavier brown hair and a slightly turn-up-ish nose, I found another character to emulate. Princess Amy in M.M. Kaye’s The Ordinary Princess was “cursed” by a grouchy fairy to look very similar to, well, me. I loved her seven fancy names just as much as I admired her love of the outdoors and willingness to work as a kitchen maid rather than be married off to a prince she didn’t admire. The story inspired many of my own original tales on what it would be like for a princess to run away or hide among the more common folk of a kingdom. I still reread this story often and give it to new friends as an introduction to me/books I like.
The last story on my shelf that drew my frequent imagining and just as frequent rereading was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. While Sara Crewe was never officially a princess, I idolized her ability to tell stories worthy of so many listeners and to be tough in times of adversity. Every pretend game in which I was an orphan took many cues from the brave and kind Sara and I still recommend it to students as a classic that is worth their time.
If you have a not so princessy princess in your life, I highly recommend all these titles and a few more. Here is a link to an Amazon list I made for easy library building or check out the list below.
- The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch
- The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett
- Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo
- Princess Academy and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
- Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore
- The Prince of the Pond by Donna Jo Napoli
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen