Okay, maybe hate is a bit too strong a word – more of a mental eyeroll. After having two sweet little girls who love princesses with no prompting from Mom whatsoever, my chosen defense to the superficial aspects of princess mania has become good princess books. This was a bit challenging at first, as the overt “princess books” that I found that outwardly poked fun at the whole princess genre were a bit too pushy and snarky for me. I don’t want to make fun of my girls, and I didn’t find those anti-princess books terribly well written. But over the years though happy library browsing accident, we’ve come across several excellent books that center around princesses who display courage, kindness, intelligence, compassion, and self sacrifice – all those things I want my daughter to admire over great hair and a tiny waist.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale
Mufaro has two daughters – both considered to be the most beautiful around. Although they are both lovely in form and face, the two sisters vary widely in their attitudes. One is hard-working and compassionate, the other is vain and cruel. As they journey to meet the prince, their true natures will become clear to their potential bridegroom. This book has been a wonderful jumping off point into the discussion of, “what makes someone beautiful?”
The Rough-Face Girl
Rafe Martin / David Shannon
Based on a Native American folk tale, this beautifully told, haunting story centers around a young girl spurned by her cruel older sisters. She is forced to tend the fire, resulting in disfiguring scars covering her face and body. In her village lives a powerful invisible being, who will only marry the woman who can see him. Its a wonderful story of bravery, determination, and authenticity that ends with cheer-out-loud redemption.
The story of Rodopis, a Greek slave girl in Egypt, is considered the earliest Cinderella story. Its thought to have been originally recorded in the 1st century BCE by the Greek historian Strabo. I think that if you take the fluffy Disney filter away from the the Cinderella story, you are left with a core that emphasizes perseverance through difficult circumstances and true moral fiber winning in the end. This retelling we found through Veritas Press
and used it with our study of Ancient Egypt as corresponding literature and it was a favorite!
Another lovely Cinderella story, this one based in Mexico.
I love how the Cinderella story translates and relates to so many cultures.
Tomie dePaola’s iconic illustrations and excellent storytelling shines as always.
This original story centers around the youngest and least impressive princess of her family who it turns out is the one who bravely and willingly sacrifices to save her people when her kingdom’s need is most dire. The illustrations bring to mind a lovely mythical Persian feel.
Okay, so while this story really centers more on the princes seeking her hand than on the princess, I would include because the princess in question shows wisdom and follows her heart over superficial trappings. Its also one of my four year old son’s favorites, so its got that boy appeal too. 🙂
I know there have to be many more out there –
Any suggestions would be appreciated!