Let me start off by saying that I am a huge Disney fan. I have always loved the humor and joy that the movies bring and I love a happy ending. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I started looking at some of the classic Disney films with a little more criticism. Why didn’t Cinderella ever stand up for herself? How could Ariel find the love of her life and get married at 16? Isn’t there something wrong with a prince kissing an unconscious woman who cannot give consent? I want to make sure that my daughter has role models with a little more substance than some of the princesses from 50 years ago.
This task left me on a search for books that would show another side of princesses. I wanted my daughter (and my sons) to see you can be strong, independent, smart and still be a princess at heart. We’ve rounded up 10 books to encourage children to be unique.
The first book I ever remember with this message is the story of Atalanta in Free to Be You and Me by Marlo Thomas and Friends. I love this book about being yourself. It is a book that is still relevant (35 + years after original publication) and definitely ahead of its time. The story of Atalanta is no different. She refuses to marry just because her father wants her to and is determined to live her own life. I love it.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is a hilarious story about the princess who outwits a dragon, rescues the prince and realizes she doesn’t need him to be happy!!! It is a classic, wonderful story. Like most of Robert Munch’s books, it is funny and silly and the perfect read aloud.
Part-time Princess by Deborah Underwood was actually recommended to me by an employee of Barnes and Noble when I wanted to grab a baby gift. (Remember when I asked this very important question to Heather?) The story features an average girl by day who becomes a princess at night. But she is no ordinary princess. She fights trolls and puts out fires and is home in time for tea with her mom.
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen questions some of the stereotypes that all princesses dress in pink. Some princesses use power tools and wear overalls. Some princesses wear red dresses and stinky socks. It’s not the clothes that determine if you are a princess at heart. The heart of this story is for children to look into their importance and unlimited potential.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale– In this early reader, the princess has to fight monsters while trying to open her birthday presents. This adorable book is part of a series that is another cute and funny example of a strong female princess!
Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna is one of my favorite books to read with my daughter. It gives the important message that every child can be a princess if they want by looking inside themselves. I love that in this book, princesses cry and fuss, wear hiking boots and have bad days like everybody else.
“Mommy do princesses seem at all like me? Look inside yourself and you’ll see.” – Carmela LaVigna, Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?
Princess Smarty Pants by Babette Cole is a hilarious tale in which Princess Smarty Pants does not want to get married. She finds some unique solutions to her situations and ensures that she can continue to be the princess that she wants to be- single and happy!
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton is too cute- literally. Princess Pinecone wants a big strong horse fit for a warrior. However, she gets a pony that does not fit that description. What she learns is that even big strong warriors have a soft side as well. We love this book!
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis is a story of love and acceptance. This nonfiction book is the story of a 4-year-old boy who happily expresses himself by dressing up in dresses and sparkly clothing. He does not conform to gender norms. This book is a great way to open the dialogue about accepting people for who they are and embracing differences.
Not Every Princess by Jeffery Bone encourages children to use their imagination and follow their dreams. This book also includes a “note to parents and caregivers” with advice on encouraging imagination beyond those that are typical gender stereotypes.
Princess Bess Gets Dressed by Margery Cuyler is an adorable story about Princess Bess. She has so many outfits to change into for all her royal duties. However, at the end of the day, her favorite thing to wear is…..well, you have to read to find out. But, deep down, a princess is just like everybody else.
Are you sharing any gender-bending, stereotype-breaking books to your littles? Let us know if we missed any on our list!