Once upon a time there existed some strange books. These books were called Princess Stories for Children. In these books, girls were misrepresented as mindless and powerless people waiting for a miracle to happen; and if at all women were powerful, they were of course evil!
Somewhere far, far away, a few awesome authors were sitting and stewing after reading these books. They patiently waited for the opportune moment and bang! They wrote books that represented women as fierce and kind, feisty and sensitive. The princesses in these books go on adventures and lift weights. They even lead lives like regular people. These authors showed the world that girls have opinions, ambitions and also the courage, strength and tenacity to pursue them.
While there’s nothing wrong with indulging in Utopian fairy tales, constant representation of women as ditzy, wide-eyed, beauty queens can be misleading. And repeated exposure of only such books to children may have them believing that women are in fact weak. Here are some refreshing must-read princess books.
The Worst Princess
By Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie
Princess Sue was a typical princess locked away in a lonely tower. She too dreamt of being rescued and starting her life afresh. But when her Prince finally arrived, he turned out to be a royal let-down. The Prince took Sue to his castle, ordered her to wear fancy dresses, and sit in her tower looking pretty all day. Sue felt like she was out of the frying pan and into the fire. The princess did not sit back and let the Prince treat her that way. She found an unusual ally who was also quite fed up with the Prince. The both of them conspired, created a little mischief and secured their freedom. A wonderfully witty book.
Suitable for 4+
The Weightlifting Princess
Author: Sowmya Rajendran | Illustrator: Debasmita Dasgupta
When it is most appropriate for a princess to marry a champion, Princess Nila decides that she would rather be a champion herself! But championships don’t come easy. And to go to the best sports school, you have got to be the best yourself. With mega determination, hard-work and persistence, Princess Nila manages to qualify for the Weightlifting Championship. Will she win it and claim the life she wants? Read this amazing avant-garde book that trashes not only the idea that princesses are dainty, but also several other stereotypes about how women must look and behave.
Suitable for 4+
Princess with the Longest Hair
Author: Komilla Raote | Illustrator: Vandana Bist
In this spectacularly illustrated book, the princess was not just beautiful, but also had the longest and most lustrous hair in the entire kingdom. Princess Parineeta did not enjoy the status of a princess and disliked being treated like a showpiece. Consequently, she leaves her palace and wanders away from her kingdom. On the way, she stumbles upon many people in need. She helps them all by offering her hair bit by bit until she has no hair left on her head. This actually leaves Parineeta feeling happy, free and liberated.
Suitable for 4+
The Princess and the Pig
Author: Jonathan Emmett | Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
Baby Princess Priscilla, and a farmer’s new piglet, Pigmella; accidently get switched when no one is looking. The humble farmer and his wife believe that it’s the work of a good fairy to have changed their pig into a lovely little girl. And when the imperious king and queen discover that their baby girl is transformed into a pig, they believe that it’s the curse of a bad fairy. The pig is raised like a princess with royal luxuries and the Princess is raised as the farmer’s daughter.
When the little baby grows up into a smart young lady, the farmer discovers that there had been a switch in the past. The princess is disheartened. She does not want to leave her family and go live in the castle. A hilarious switched-at-birth story that subtly conveys the message that you do not need to be a princess to have your ‘happily ever after’.
Suitable for 4+
The Princess Knight
Author: Cornelia Funke | Illustrator: Kerstin Meyer
When a widower king raises his daughter just as he raised his sons, one would assume that he was on the right parenting track. But it turns out that he just did not know ‘how to raise a daughter’. The lessons that were taught to the princess included horse riding, jousting, sword fighting, etc. At first, Princess Violetta found it hard to keep up with her older brothers, but she had the smarts and determination of all three of them put together. She soon begins to give her brothers some serious competition.
On Violetta’s sixteenth birthday the King announces a jousting tournament. Violetta assumes that the tournament was a platform for her to showcase her skills, but the King has other plans. The tournament was for the winner to marry princess Violetta instead. Enraged that she could not participate in the competition and was in fact the victor’s prize, Princess Violetta sneakily takes matters into her own hands and teaches the King a lesson.
Suitable for 6+