Princess Talk

princesspI am sick of talking about princesses.  I am sick of my daughter talking about how much she loves princesses, but I’m also sick of hearing and reading about parents hating princesses.  So when a review copy of The Princess Problem landed on my desk at work, I rolled my eyes and ignored it for a while.

Princesses aren’t going anywhere however, and neither was this book.  When I finally gave it a chance, I was pleasantly surprised.  The Princess Problem was more than a rant about how princesses are ruining our daughters.  It’s actually a guide to talking to our kids about the media they consume as it relates to princesses.  There are discussion questions for movies and ideas for healthy media consumption.  It’s a fantastic resource with a practical sensibility.  Find out more on the author’s web site.

While I’m on the topic of princesses, I want to recommend a couple of books that will appeal to both princess-loving kids and princess-hating parents:

  • The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale is an early chapter book about a princess who is secretly a superhero.  My six-year-old daughter was obsessed with this book for months, which is a pretty strong endorsement right there.  Definitely a fun pick for the kids who want to dress up in pretty clothes and do the rescuing.
  • Princess in Training by Tammy Sauer features a disappointing princess.  She’s not very princessy, but those non-princessy interests come in handy when a dragon sneaks in the castle.  This picture book is cute and fun.
  • Princess Sparkle Heart Gets a Makeover by Josh Schneider has enough pink sparkles on the cover to attract the princess loving kid, but the story isn’t really about princesses.  It’s about a girl and her doll and what happens when that doll is attacked by the family dog.

Parents and other people who interact with kids might also be interested in this post on Princess Shaming in which a librarian advises, “Find out what it is about the princess that makes your kid want to read about her and be her; find out what your kid thinks it means to play princess.”

Right on.  Instead of hating princesses, let’s think critically about them.

Princess Talk

I have a five year-old girl in my life, and it follows seemingly inevitably that princesses are also a part of my life. This is hardly the first time I’ve brought up princesses on this blog, and among parents of girls, the topic has been covered again and again.  Still we can never seem to resist a chance to talk princess with other parents, whether we love them or hate them.  So I listened eagerly (and added my two cents) to the MPR segment which had two dads giving their take on princess culture.

As an aside, does it seem like more dads are talking about parenting these days?  I hope so.  Parenting doesn’t have to be such a girls club.

Anyway, I think it was a caller who brought up the idea of redirecting the princess obsession with a little reality. Princesses don’t just wear pretty dresses and go to balls, and your young daughter might not have quite the same view of royal life after learning more about real princess life.  For the parents who decide to go that route (more power to you!), here are a couple of picture books you might want to slip into your bedtime story rotation:

princessintraining

 princessandthepeas

A peek inside Princess in Training
A peek inside Princess in Training

The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart – When Lili-Rose May won’t eat her peas the doctor declares that she must be a princess, so they send her off to the castle.  She’s very excited until she learns all the work that comes along with being a princess, and eating peas back home with her family doesn’t seem so bad after all.  (This might also be a good choice for picky eaters.)

Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer – Princess Viola just wants to be the darling of her kingdom, but she is no good at princess stuff like waving and dancing.  Her parents send her to Camp Princess to learn everything she needs to know.  Only she ends up saving the day with her non-princess skills and becoming the darling of her kingdom anyway.  (This one is a favorite in my house.)

Maybe one of these will change the perception of princesses in your house or at least vary the story up a bit.  Either way good luck to you.

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Secular teen in a secular family

In my latest post for Books in Bloom I mention Girls Don’t Fly in a post in which I highlight books that have something to do with birds, but the most interesting thing about Girls Don’t Fly, at least on Secular Thursday, is that it was clearly (but fairly subtly) about a secular family living in a religious area.  Early in the book, the narrator makes a comment about having to work on Sundays because the religious kids in her Utah town aren’t supposed to.  Later, she starts researching about birds in the Galapagos Islands and learning about evolution.  The book even has a classroom scene where one of the religious kids questions the teacher about evolution.

Here’s what I said about it,

“My bird-related pick for teens takes us to the Galapagos Islands.  Well, almost.  Girls Don’t Fly is actually about Myra, a very practical teen who decides (after getting dumped) that maybe she doesn’t want such a practical life after all.  Suddenly she’s quitting her job and competing (against her ex) for a scholarship to spend the summer studying birds in the Galapagos.  She didn’t know she had it in her, but the more she learns about birds, the more she realizes how much the birds she wants to study really suit her.  This realistic novel will appeal to middle and high school girls who like Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti, or who just like a story about a girl learning to fly on her own.”

It;s chick lit, sure, but with a bit of a twist.  It would be a good choice for girls in secular families looking for a book that reflect their experience.  There aren’t many to choose from, and this is a good one.

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More book recommendations about religion and science on the For Secular Families page.

What princesses can do

A conversation between Ladybug (now 3.5) and me while playing pretend:

Ladybug: You be the princess.

Me: Okay. What do princesses do?

Ladybug: They dance with the prince.

Me: Bummer. I wanted to save the day.

Ladybug: Rescue Man saves the day, but you can help him if you want.

*sigh*

What happened since Halloween (when fairies saved the day) to change her perception of what women can do?

I just put Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch on hold at the library.  Best princess book I can think of. Books are how I handle issues like this. How do you address it?  (Or maybe you don’t?)  Input and opinions welcome! :)

On reading children’s books

I’ve read a handful of books about raising girls in the hope that I’ll know what to say when my daughter, now three, starts asking questions about sex or searching for independence over closeness. I feel prepared now for issues of bullying and body image thanks to books like Odd Girl Out and The Body Project, but none of the books I’ve read addressed something as simple as a girl’s first crush. For that I had to turn to fiction.

After reading Nora Raleigh Baskin’s new novel for tweens, Summer Before Boys, I was reminded of the strain girls’ friendships fall under as they grow up. I want to tell my daughter to be patient, to keep her girl friends close even when they aren’t totally in sync with her. Things change quickly, and girl friends are important. This is something that even grown up girls forget, and I recommend this book, in particular, to girls of all ages.

Alice McKinley grows up in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, and Alice in Rapture, Sort of is the “summer of the first boyfriend.” The book captures this confusing time with a particular perception. It reminded me to make sure my daughter knows that it’s okay to not know and to let her in the secret: your friends probably aren’t sure yet either.

While I continue to read books for parents, I think that children’s books have had the strongest impact on my parenting than anything I’ve read aimed at adults. With children’s books, I find myself put into the child’s (or teen’s) perspective. If it’s a good book, I walk away from it with a far greater respect and empathy for young people than I had before reading it.

This is why I continue to recommend children’s or young adult books to you. I’m not trying to say you have the mentality of a child or otherwise insult you. I’m trying to create stronger opportunities to connect with the world around you. Kids are everywhere. Don’t you ever wonder what’s going on in their world?