Why I Built This Kit
You hear it all the time. A parent will be talking about their little girl and how one day she was interested in skyscrapers and bugs and monsters and the next? Princesses. Nothing but princesses. By some odd stroke of fate my 3-year-old daughter has so far been able to avoid being swallowed by the Disney princess machine. However, I know that this brief reprieve is bound to end soon. To prepare for the switchover I’ve been marshaling my forces and finding princess fare that goes beyond the goo. What do little girls (and occasionally boys) like about princesses? They like the fancy qualities. They like the idea of being special and maybe even being in charge. They even like the word: Princess. It’s fun to say. Here then is a kit for those kiddos that have either been engulfed in princess obsessions or are on the cusp of that pink, sparkly time.
Books for Discussing This Theme
Cinderella by Barbara McClintock
It can be tricky to pick just a single version of a classic like Cinderella. But of all the picture books out there about the girl with the glass slippers, McClintock’s is by far one of the loveliest. Done with her highly detailed pen and inks, this book gives a nod to the fact that the original story was French and fills each and every page with pure charm.
The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett, ill. Poly Bernatene
The funniest princess picture book you will ever have the pleasure to read. What happens when a pig and a princess are switched at birth? The princess is adopted by a lovely poor couple and grows up happy. The pig is raised by the king and queen and attempts are made to teach it decorum. Wonderful chaos ensues.
Not All Princesses Dress In Pink by Jane Yolen & Heidi Stemple, ill. Anne-Sophie Lanquetin
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a princess. Just don’t be fooled into thinking it boxes you in. Princesses can do everything from tree climbing to mud puddle jumping and more. Hand this to any little princess who wants the frills along with the fun.
The Duchess of Whimsy by Randall de Seve, ill. Peter de Seve
Okay. Admittedly it’s not really about a princess. But you’ll forget that fact the minute you step on in. The Duchess is always the life of the party while the poor Earl of Norm is as normal as they come. The Earl loves the Duchess but she finds him dull . . . until the day things go a little haywire and he makes it clear just how wonderful the everyday can sometimes be.
Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman, ill. Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu
Everyone knows what a princess looks like, right? Not so fast. Grace is prepared to dress up in the hopes of being selected as a princess in the town parade. But when she looks into it she finds that real princesses can look very different, whether they’re from Kenya or China or any other nation. A great contemporary tale that gives kids a sense of what “real” princesses are like.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
If any princess book could be honestly considered a classic it would be this one. There’s a reason they call it one of the best princess stories of all time (it originally published in 1980). When Princess Elizabeth’s fiancé is captured by a dastardly dragon, she sets off to rescue him with her smarts and her courage.
The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp, ill. Sara Ogilvie
Similar in tone to The Paper Bag Princess, Kemp’s tale has all the chutzpah but with the extra added benefit of befriending a dragon. Princess Sue lives out the typical fairytale storyline, then finds herself bored silly. Fortunately a fiery dragon comes to her aid and the two set off for some adventures of their own.
Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, ill. LeUyen Pham
A very early chapter book, just perfect for pre-readers and early readers alike. Picture what would happen if you took a pretty pretty princess and then taught her how to fight like Zorro. That’s the premise of this honestly adorable and fun little book. Monster fighter Princess Magnolia must do battle with a big furry invader while also conducting a very proper tea with the nosy Duchess Wigtower. Can she pull it off?
Snow White by Jane Ray
If I were to name the most gorgeous classic fairy tale book of them all, this one would certainly be in the running. A three-dimensional book that looks as much like a stage as a story, Ray’s stunning illustrations tell the tale of Snow White in just six scenes. A multicultural, gorgeous offering.
Apps for Exploring This Theme
Strangebeard – The Pirate Princess
Pirate + Princess = Awesome. Isabel may be a Princess but when she puts on her pirate costume for a party she has no idea where it might lead. Be prepared for silly monkeys throwing fruit, galleons, monsters, treasure maps, and even a piratical jig or two. And of course, some good old-fashioned sword fighting. Arrrg, me hearties! Tis a bonny app!
The Princess and the Pea: A Fairy Tale
One of Hans Christian Andersen's beloved fairy tales, this story is about perseverance in finding a true love, and proving one's integrity. Each page features amusing animations of the characters as they discover the true identity of the palace's unexpected guest. The app offers options based on your preferences and child's literacy level: to have the story read to you, to engage with the app to move the story along, answer comprehensive questions, read to your child or have them read with you the traditional way. - Tara P., Zoobean Curator
Nosy Crow creates some of the best apps for kids out there, and this classic story is no exception. It’s a 3D fairytale where you are part of the action. Cinderella isn’t going to be able to go to the ball unless readers help her clean the kitchen, stack the invitations, dress the stepsisters, and build the magic carriage. You can even select the dance music at the ball and Cinderella’s dress. Complete and utter fun.
Suggested Media (Videos)
Originally filmed in the 1980s, Shelley Duvall’s popular series starring a variety of different movie stars remains utterly delightful to this day. This particular fairy tale is especially charming when you consider that it stars Elizabeth McGovern, better known today as Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey.
Far sillier than most princess fare out there, the old Fractured Fairy Tales series that ran on the Rocky & Bullwinkle show contains some of the silliest and most enjoyable twisted princess fair out there. This particular episode concentrates more on the prince than the princess, but is well worth watching just the same.
They’re impossible to escape. No matter where you live you’ll find kids utterly enthralled with the Disney princesses. Those gals have some pretty catchy tunes. This video collects eleven of them. You won’t find the accompanying animation, but if you’re looking to find something to listen to, it’s a fascinating collection of all princess, all the time.
One of the simplest crowns you can make and so much fun! Perfect for a party (always assuming the kids have time to let their crowns dry).
You will need:
- A two-liter plastic soda pop bottle.
- Glitter glue.
- Scissors and tape.
- This crown template.
- Cut a 3′′ high cylindrical piece of the plastic soda pop bottle. Using two or three pieces of folded tape, affix your template behind the plastic, along the inside part of the bottle.
- Use a marker to trace the outer lines of the template. Do not trace the details of the design.
- Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut just inside of the lines you traced, making sure the lines are not left behind, as well as making sure to cut all around the circumference of the bottle. You are left with the shape of a crown that is ready to be designed.
- Again, using two or three pieces of folded tape, affix your template behind the plastic. Using glitter glue, trace the design details.
- Remove the template. Let glitter glue dry for approximately two hours. Place on the hair with bobby pins.
So simple, this is one snack the kids can definitely help out with.
- Favorite Ice Cream
- Sugar Cones
- Cookies (wafers)
- Cotton Candy
- Fill each sugar cone half full with ice cream.
- Put frosting around the cookie edge so that it will stick inside. You may also use a larger cookie or flavored cookie for the base.
- Use icing around the edges of the sugar cone and then decorate. Note: A wilton icing tip is easier than a knife, but kids may prefer to use their fingers to apply the frosting.
- Add a sliver of cotton candy for the top.
- Feel free to decorate in other ways as well. Have fun with it!
Here’s one you can do with a big group of kids, regardless of age. Granted, you’ll need to prep beforehand and make the templates, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
You will need:
- One shoe template, available here
- Access to a printer
- Pencil or marker
- White craft glue
- LOTS of sparkly things (glitter, Jumbo jewels, etc.)
- Print out the template and cut out the glass slipper shape. Trace the template onto cardstock to create a sturdy base. Cut out your glass slipper.
- Let the kids decorate the shoes with as many shiny things as they like. Allow glue to dry thoroughly before handling. Simple!
Fascinating Facts About Real Princesses
Did you know that before 1385 princesses weren't called "princess" at all? Nope. Until that point female royals were just called "Lady".
How did Bavarian Princess Alexandra Amalie, born in Aschaffenburg in 1829, explain why she walked in a peculiar way? She claimed she had swallowed a grand piano. Ow!
When Alexandra, Princess of Wales, came down with rheumatic fever and was left with a stiff knee joint all the Danish ladies decided to limp just like her. Limping was the coolest thing you could do!
Want to see some real life princesses living to day? Check out CNN's roundup that lets you Meet Some Real-Life Princesses. Or you can check out the Royal Diaries book series. Each book concentrates on a real historical princess. Read the "diaries" of Marie Antoinette, Anacaona of Haiti, Kazunomiya of 1858 Japan,
Nzingha, warrior queen of Matamba, and many more!
Suggested Family Experiences
Naturally kids with a yen to see a princess live and up close are eventually going to bug you about going to Disneyland or Disneyworld. Fortunately those are not the only places in the country harboring fairytale and nursery rhyme characters. Around the time that Disneyland was founded, a whole slew of independent parks sprung up around the country. Many of these are still going strong today and are ideal family trips. Find the one nearest you!
- Children’s Fairyland (Oakland, CA)
- Clark’s Elioak Farm (Ellicott City, MD)
- Fairytale Town (Sacramento, CA)
- Rotary Storyland & Playland (Fresno, CA)
- Story Book Forest (Idlewild, PA)
- Storybook Land (Aberdeen, SD)
- Storybook Land (Egg Harbor Township, NJ)
- Storybook Lane (Old Forge, NY)
- Storyland (New Orleans, LA)
Another surefire way for seeing a princess in action? Musicals and ballets! Certainly it would be lovely to come to New York City to see a show on the Great White Way but local productions of princess-related musicals can be just as much fun. Keep your eyes open for . . .
- Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
- Disney’s Aladdin
- Once Upon a Mattress
- Sleeping Beauty (the ballet)
No productions around? Then find the musical soundtracks and be sure to sing along!
About Betsy B.
Betsy is currently New York Public Library’s Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, reviewed for Kirkus and The New York Times and has also written the picture book Giant Dance Party, illustrated by Brandon Dorman. In 2014, Candlewick will publish Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature which she co-wrote with Jules Danielson and Peter Sieruta. You can follow Betsy on Twitter @FuseEight or at her blog A Fuse #8 Production hosted by School Library Journal.