Review of small press and independent books.
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Troubleblossom has a thing about princesses at the moment - I don't think she really understands what a princess is, she just likes wearing a crown - so I'm assembling a collection of worthwhile princess characters, and it's surprising how many there are when you start looking.
First on the list is the self-sufficient Princess Who Had No Kingdom, of whom an extensive review above. Troubleblossom is also very fond of the resourceful and courageous Princess Spaghetti in 'You Can't Eat a Princess' (Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre, 2010, Scholastic Children's Books), who takes the Royal Spaceship to rescue her father from man-eating aliens when the palace guard prove not to be up to the job, and is back in time for her birthday party (the squiggly cartoon illustrations get right up Mummy's nose, but you can't have everything). Then there's Princess Pearl in Julia Donaldson's 'Zog', who volunteers to be abducted by Zog the student dragon because life as a princess is so boring ('Don't rescue me! I won't go back to being a princess / And prancing round the palace in a silly frilly dress...') and eventually hits on a worthwhile career partnership for herself, the dragon and the knight who tries to rescue her.
Last edited by RDGardner (2011-09-05 12:49:44)
Hmm, maybe a cheer and a half for the princess in Allan Ahlberg and Paul Howard's 'The Bravest Ever Bear' (Walker Books, 1999): refusing to marry a bear just because he sorted out the dragon that was terrorising the kingdom is good; climbing out of the page, sitting down at a typewriter and rewriting the story as 'The Perfectest Ever Princess' is fine; disposing of impertinent princes who think that climbing through her tower window is a good start for a relationship, excellent... but no marks at all, even though it's a joke from a grown-up point of view, for coming up with 'she moved into a flat with a couple of friends, started a career in television - and went shopping' as her happy-ever-after.
Absolutely full marks, however, for Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie's Worst Princess (Simon and Schuster, 2012). Princess Sue is immured in her tower, waiting for her prince to arrive. She's read the books, she knows the score, she's grown her plaits down to the floor... and she's getting extremely bored. When a prince finally presents himself, he is rather nonplussed to have the opening of his big speech - 'I fought, I won, I shocked, I awed. You should have seen me swing my sword...' cut off by Sue's crisp instructions to stop wasting time and liberate her, but they gallop off on his dashing steed towards Sue's happy end. Alas, just as she is rejoicing in her freedom, they arrive at the Prince's palace, where he shows his true love to her room... in the tower. Now it's Sue's turn to be put in her place, as her hopeful suggestion that she'd rather take part in the horse riding and general fun is answered with 'You know the rules. Didn't you listen at Princess School? It's me who wears the armour here, And you wear dresses, are we clear? Just smile a lot and twist your curls. Dragon-bashing's not for girls!' (cue indignant representations from Troubleblossom of "That's not true, Mummy, is it?") However, it appears that girls can think of better things to do with dragons than bash them: when a dragon appears shortly after, Sue befriends it, and they agree that this troublesome prince needs sorting out, starting by obliterating his tower. Unfortunately, just as Sue has landed in a particularly large plant pot among the smouldering rubble, her dress in ruins and her plaits singed off and laughing all over her face, the irate prince arrives with '"Where's your tower? Look at your dress! You really are the worst princess. Also, Susan, beg your pardon, Why's there a dragon in my garden?"' The prince is shortly sitting in a pond extinguishing his bum, while Princess Sue and the dragon set off towards a happy end more to her liking, and the story finishes splendidly with Sue, her dress hemmed up into a tunic and her shortened plaits flying under a winged helmet, riding the dragon like a jousting horse as she cleanses the world of 'royal twits and naughty knights'. The verse is sound throughout, and the illustrations rich and witty, with plenty more going on than the text calls for.