Princesses are all the rage when it comes to books for girls. And while I don’t have anything against princesses, I don’t think every girl dreams of being one. (Being treated like royalty, yes, but not actually being a princess!) Truth be told, I don’t remember having princess dreams. I do remember wanting to be a veterinarian, a lawyer, an actress, and Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives all by the time I was in fourth grade. That’s why I absolutely love two recently published picture books that open up awesome possibilities for girls to dream of being whatever they want to be.
The first was recommended to me by an editor I met at the Rutgers University One-on-One Plus Conference. In My Rules for Being a Pretty Princess a young girl dreams of being a pretty princess more than anything else in the world until she discovers that being a princess isn’t quite what she had in mind. From wearing dresses that are never supposed to get dirty, to the agony of having perfect hair, to being told that her dancing isn’t graceful enough — it’s all rather boring! As if all that’s not enough, she’s expected to wait, and wait, and wait for her handsome prince to show up. Where’s the fun and adventure in that? In the end, this wannabe-princess decides to make up her own princess rules — rules that allow her to fully be herself, wild dancing and all!
The book’s jacket flap describes how author Heath McKenzie wrote the book for his daughter Ava before she was even born. As soon as he knew that he was having a daughter, he wanted to make sure that she knew that she could be anything that she wanted to be when she grew up. Kudos to this dad for painting that vision for his daughter and girls everywhere!
The second book, Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, features a Cinderella unlike any you’ve met before. She repairs robot dishwashers and zoombrooms while dreaming of fixing fancy rockets. She’s nimble with tools and sprockets and stays up late studying ship repair in her books. In order to get to the Prince’s Royal Space Parade, Interstellar Cinderella must find a way to fix a broken ship after being ditched by her stepmother and stepsisters who have jetted off with her toolbox. With the help of Murgatroyd, her robotic mouse, and her fairy godrobot, who gives her new tools and an awesome space suit, she has just what she needs to fix her rocket and make it to the Space Parade — and also to lend a hand when the prince’s starship is in distress.
I can’t give away the ending because it’s too perfect; however, I will say that Interstellar Cinderella gets a very happy ending that is out of this world. This story is told entirely in rhyming verse and is a wonderful take on the time-honored classic tale we all grew up with.
If you have other suggestions for picture books with strong female characters that challenge the status quo, please share them in the comments section below!