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You Won’t Find Your Average Princess in These 10 Books

by Devon A. Corneal

Not Your Average Princess

I have nothing against princesses. I like beautiful dresses and fancy crowns and dainty feet and being rescued by a charming man. The traditional damsel in distress is a quintessential part of children’s literature and I have no problem with little girls who dream of going to balls and finding true love.

I do, however, know a few little girls (and their parents) who are interested in a different kind of princess. One who saves herself or has adventures or prefers sword fights to gowns. These little girls are looking for empowered, kick-ass role models who would rather tame a dragon than learn to use a spinning wheel. In honor of our more modern daughters, here are a few royals who embody girl power.

  • The Princess in Black

    by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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    Princess Magnolia is a perfect, prim, and proper princess — until danger calls. Then, she swaps her fancy dress for basic black and heads out to stop a big blue monster from eating all the goats. This is a girl who knows how to multi-task. Now, if only she can keep her secret.

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  • The Paper Bag Princess

    by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

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    Princess Elizabeth is having a bad day. A dragon just attacked her castle, burned all her clothes, and carried off her fiancé. This is one princess, however, who isn’t going to sit around and whine. She throws on a paper bag and sets off to trick the dragon and win her beloved’s freedom. When her prince doesn’t appreciate her efforts, however, Princess Elizabeth does what any empowered woman would do and dumps him. This is a princess every feminist can love.

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  • The Secret Lives of Princesses

    by Philippe Lechermeier, illustrated by Rébecca Dautremer

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    You’ve heard about Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, but what about Princess Anne Phibian? Princess Hot-Head? It’s time to expand your horizons and meet the princesses who get far less press, but have just as much fun as their famous counterparts.

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  • The Princess Knight

    by Cornelia Funk, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer

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    Princess Violet is desperate to avoid being treated like a girl and forced to marry, so she does what any self-respecting princess would do: She dresses up like a boy and enters a jousting tournament to win her freedom. I would not bet against this young woman if I were you.

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  • Dangerously Ever After

    by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Valeria Docampo

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    Fearless Princess Amanita has a pet scorpion and a bicycle without brakes. So naturally she hates the roses Prince Florian gives her — until she discovers they have thorns. Spiky and prickly are perfect for this independent princess and she will stop at nothing to grow her own, even when things don’t turn out quite as she had planned.

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  • Not All Princesses Dress in Pink

    by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin

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    Just because a princess likes a crown, doesn’t mean she can’t also like getting dirty and playing sports. With lines like, “[s]ome princesses wear their jewels while fixing things with power tools,” this rhyming collection of princesses reminds girls that they can contain multitudes.

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  • Cinder Edna

    by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley

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    I always thought Cinderella was a little too reliant on her fairy godmother, so I’m thrilled that Cinder Edna takes matters into her own hands, rather than waiting for someone else to save her. Author Ellen Jackson gives the old Cinderella story a kick in the ball gown with a loafer, instead of a glass slipper.

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  • Don’t Kiss the Frog

    compiled by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Ella Burfoot

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    This collection of princess stories with attitude gives elementary readers a taste of sporty, brave, and curious royalty who refuse to conform to traditional stereotypes. They have crowns AND these girls have spunk!

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  • The Wide Awake Princess

    by E.D. Baker

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    Remember Sleeping Beauty? Ever hear about her sister? No? Me neither. But Princess Annie plays a vital role in this retelling of the classic fairy tale. When her sister pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, sending the entire castle to sleep, only Annie remains awake to find a prince and save her sister from the evil spell.

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  • The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

    by Christopher Healy, illustrated by Todd Harris

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    Middle grade readers will love seeing Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Briar Rose do more than sleep and swoon. These princesses (along with their princes) take on take on dragons, witches, and adventures galore and they do it with a smile (and more than a little snark).

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