I’m hoping to do a longer post on the holiday books soon, but here’s the prose book we gave my daughter yesterday.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Candlewick, 2014.
Princess Magnolia is the very picture of a perfect princess, sipping her hot chocolate and eating scones with Duchess Wigtower in an impeccable frilly pink dress. But when her monster ring alarm goes off, she slips into the broom closet, puts on her black clothes and mask, and meets her faithful pony Blacky – who also has a day-to-day disguise as Frimplepants the unicorn – and goes off to defeat the monster. A young goat boy watches as the mysterious Princess in Black uses a combination of martial arts and scolding to send the wayward monster back through the hole to Monsterland. But will Princess Magnolia get back to the nosy Duchess Wigtower before her secret is discovered???
I’ve been seeing a kind of princess battleground lately, as toys and clothes for girls get more and more pink and frilly (see my review of Cinderella Ate My Daughter)while at the same time, educated parents are deciding that girls shouldn’t be told the traditional fairy tales with their too-passive princesses. I can see valid points on both sides – and while I certainly don’t want to tell my daughter that she should make herself beautiful so she can attract a handsome man, she loves the beautiful dresses and the traditional fairy tales. There’s a nice article on Princess Shaming from Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, with thanks to Maureen of By Singing Light for bringing it to my attention. My approach up until now has been to read her the traditional stories as retold by Berlie Doherty, who makes it clear that all the romantic relationships are consensual, and including large amounts of folk tales with strong women – both the Jane Yolen anthology mentioned here, and my old Tatterhood collection edited by Ethel Johnston Phelps.
In this early chapter book, Shannon and Dean Hale make it clear – in a silly and engaging story – that girls don’t have to choose between the pretty dresses and being part of the action. The story is told in chapters that take about three minutes each to read aloud – perfect for waking a sleepy girl up for school – and illustrated with LeUyen Pham’s beautiful yet adorable full-color paintings. My girl was thrilled with this when we had it out from the library in October, and even more excited to have her very own copy to keep.