Girls are often treated to stories of damsels in distress, of beautiful princesses longing to meet their Prince Charming’s or who run into trouble and need to be rescued by, you guessed it, some handsome man. Princesses of old don’t exactly make great role models for young girls, unless, of course, you want your daughter to learn that it is important for her to be a fragile, flower-like creature who every man falls in love with because she’s submissive and beautiful. But in recent years, children’s book writers have been trying to create strong, independent princesses young girls can truly model themselves after.
A Mighty Girl has compiled “The Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess,” and a few of the best titles from that list are featured here. Sometimes all it takes to get your child to read more is to find books with characters she can identify with. In a world with male-dominated protagonists, it’s nice to see that at least part of the world is being claimed for the female protagonist who is independent, resourceful, smart, and confident.
1. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch & Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Your 3-8 year-old is sure to love the story of Princess Elizabeth who is scheduled to marry Ronald, until a dragon destroys her castle and all her clothes and kidnaps her husband to be. It is up to Elizabeth to outsmart the dragon and save Ronald, and all without the help of some handsome prince. In the end, Ronald isn’t very grateful to Elizabeth, as she is dressed in a paper bag, smells like ashes, and, horror of all horrors, her hair’s a mess. This smart book is playing with the idea that the common assumption is that it doesn’t matter what a girl is capable of as long as she always looks good.
2. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Girls aged 9-14 will find Hale’s intricate storytelling engaging, as it weaves together themes of jealousy, relationships, friendship, family, leadership, feminism, and marriage. What begins as a seemingly typical fairytale—the king decides that his son must choose his future bride from a small village that quarries stone, so a school is set up to teach all the village girls how to be princesses—takes some unexpected turns that are fueled by Miri, the stories protagonist who has a special talent that she uses to save herself and her friends.
3. Sleeping Bobby by Will and Mary Pope Osborne & Illustrated by Giselle Potter
Always nice to see a classic fairytale turned on its ear. In this retelling of the class Sleeping Beauty, we see that gender roles are reversed—it is the handsome prince who pricks his finger and needs to be woken from a deep slumber by a princess. This is one that 4-8 year-olds will love to read aloud.
4. Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess, Written & Illustrated by Ralph Cosentino
Can you think of a stronger, more independent princess than Wonder Woman? In her hardcover picture book debut, her story is re-imagined for young readers as an introduction to the female star of DC Comics. Cosentino’s illustrations are all based on the original comic book. This is a great read for girls aged 3-8.
Now go read and be empowered!