Princesses

Most young girls I know are infatuated with all things related to princesses. They love dressing up in crowns and royal gowns, and they adore the Disney princess movies as well as the newer line of Barbie movies. (By the way, I’ve never actually seen any of the Barbie movies…) I have to admit that I was a princess-lover, myself, at that age. But I believe there are certain values portrayed in the princess genre that cause me to shy away from exposing my daughter to those particular movies and stories right now. For one, I don’t want my daughter to become infatuated with boy/girl relationships too early. And princess movies and stories tend to portray marriage as love at first sight, giving no idea of what true love is really about. I get really uncomfortable when I see preschoolers playing like they are “in love,” acting out what they have seen in princess movies. Secondly, I think princess movies give the message that becoming rich will make you happy. I’d rather my little girl read a story that teaches that one can be happy even in the worst physical circumstances.

Am I being too picky as I evaluate the princess genre? Perhaps. Am I “straining at gnats?” Maybe. And I’m open to input from those who have different opinions on the subject. Perhaps there are aspects I have not considered. I have to admit that there are some good values in a story such as Cinderella. Cinderella’s good works are rewarded in the end, and the wicked step-relatives get no reward for their evil deeds. (Or is Cinderella rewarded mostly for her good looks and the step-sisters not rewarded because they are ugly? But I digress….)

At any rate, I’m not suggesting that you’re a bad parent or a bad person if you support the princess-producing industry. There are certainly worse things you could be supporting. But I’d like to suggest a few alternative picture books for those of you who are looking for ways to provide stories with good moral lessons for your little girls. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are all books that have recently impressed me with the good moral tone and character lessons that are hidden underneath a well-told story:

1. Melissa Parkington’s Beautiful, Beautiful Hair by Pat Brisson: This is the story of a girl who has beautiful long hair and everyone always compliments her on it. Each night as her dad kisses her goodnight, he says, “Goodnight, my Melissa of the beautiful, beautiful hair.” Eventually, Melissa decides that she’d like to be known for something other than how she looks, so she tries basketball and drawing but realizes she isn’t very good at either. But in the meantime she’s been playing and drawing with the neighbor kids and realizes that one thing she’s good at is being nice to people. When she sees a sign at a hair salon asking people to donate their hair to cancer patients, she knows she wants to do it. So, she gives her beautiful hair away, and when her dad kisses her at night, instead he says, “Goodnight, my Melissa of the beautiful, beautiful heart.” I don’t care for the art in this book, but the story is sweet.

2. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart: Lydia Grace is a little girl living in the Depression era. She leaves her country farm to go live with her uncle who is a store-owner in a city. He’s a grumpy sort of man, and she makes it her goal to get him to smile. She loves flowers, and she begins to plant them everywhere. She brings a lot of sunshine to the store employees and also attracts customers to the store through the beautiful flowers everywhere. She also makes a “secret place” on the roof that is full of beautiful flowers. When it’s finally time to leave, her uncle still hasn’t smiled, but the look on his face leaves you with a sweet impression of the impact Lydia Grace has had on him. The art and story are beautiful, and I think about something new nearly every time I read the book. Also, I can’t get through it without crying.

3. Roses on Baker Street by Eileen Berry (a very dear friend of mine): This is a great story about a missionary kid named Danae who comes back to the states on furlough and feels out of place in her new school. Her dad has always told her to “look for the roses” in life, so she tries to be positive and hopes to make friends. She finally makes a new friend who invites her to her home. When Danae goes inside the home, she realizes that her friend’s mother is a florist and their basement is filled with roses. It’s a sweet story with nice art by John Roberts, who is also a friend of ours.

4. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes: A poor Polish girl is in school with a bunch of girls who make fun of the shabby dress she wears each day. She tells them that she has one hundred beautiful dresses at home. They make fun of her and don’t believe her. One day, the Polish family sends a note to the school explaining that they are moving to the city where they expect to find more acceptance. One of the school girls feels badly about not sticking up for the Polish girl, and she decides to go to their house to try to apologize. When she gets there, she finds that the family is already gone, but she also finds a stack of drawings–one hundred beautiful dresses that the poor girl had drawn. It’s a good story to remind little girls about the pain they can cause another person by making fun of her.

If you have other ideas about stories that teach positive moral lessons to little girls, or if you’d like to discuss the princess genre, feel free to leave a comment!

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Published in: on March 13, 2007 at 1:19 pm  Comments (10)  

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  1. I love Roses on Baker Street! When the daddy pulls his daughter onto his lap, I always get a lump in my throat. It reminds me of how much I love my dad. And I enjoy most of the art in that book. I’ve read the Hundred Dresses, and I’m familiar with the Gardener. I’ll have to check them all out.

    I’m not a big fan of the princess craze for the same reasons you give, but I like some princess stories.
    Have you seen the Ordinary Princess by M.M.Kaye? This is my favorite princess book. It’s all about a princess whose fairy godmother gave her the gift of being ordinary. I think you would like it.

    I also enjoyed Ella Enchanted. It’s a retelling of Cinderella where the fairy godmother’s gift of obedience creates the setting for the known part of the fairy tale. It’s very clever and sweet. If you saw the movie, it totally destroyed the moral tone, so don’t base your judgment on the movie. The “free will” theme in this book is fascinating.

    As for other books, what do you think of Elizabeth George’s book on Proverbs 31 for little s? I love the concept, but I don’t care for the . I’m trying to decide if I’m being too persnickety.

  2. Michelle,

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

    I’ve not read either The Ordinary Princess or Ella Enchanted. I’ll have to check them out.

    I didn’t catch some of the comment about God’s Wisdom for Little Girls by Elizabeth George. I’m not sure what you didn’t care for. I do have that book, and I like it overall, but I think some of the parallels between the virtues of a LITTLE girl and the virtues of the Proverbs 31 woman are a bit of a stretch. After all, is a little girl expected to rise while it is night to feed her household or to consider buying a field? 🙂

  3. Oh, The Gardener is one of my favorites! I got the audio version and played it for my 2nd grade class.

    I agree that the “princess” motif has become commercialized, cheesy, and self-centered, but I still like it 🙂 The Little Princess if one of my favorite movies. I think it protrays the idea that little girls are to be beautiful (inside and out), loved, and treasured, but not pampered.

  4. Sorry, that was a blocker issue of mine. 🙂 I intended to say that I didn’t care for the “execution” of the concept, but apparently violent imagery is off limits and my blocker deleted the word. (Ditto for “girls” at the end of the sentence previous to this one.)

    Yes, the use of Scripture is primarily what bugs me. When I read it to the children, I don’t use the Scripture. I’m not crazy about the poetry, but that could just be nit picking. I think the artwork is pretty, though.

  5. Dana,

    I’m with you! That’s a good movie!

  6. Thanks for the nice review, Addy. 🙂

    I LOVE The Hundred Dresses. It’s one of my favorites. I think the characterization is fabulous–the girls’ thought processes are so true to life, and it vividly presents the perils of well-meaning but snobby schoolgirl cliques without being the least bit preachy.

    I don’t think I ever told you–I bought The Gardner at your recommendation! 🙂

  7. Good! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

  8. Hi Addy! I like princess stories, but if I had little girls I’d want to be careful about the concerns you mentioned.

    In addition, I’m concerned about parents who call their daughter “princess.” That’s a little different issue, but I wonder if sometimes parents are giving their daughters a self-image that will be crushed when the rest of the world doesn’t regard them as a princess. I think that title can be used just as a loving family name if it is balanced with other teaching and “normal” treatment.

    I hadn’t heard of any of the books you mentioned — maybe because I don’t have any girls. 🙂

  9. I stumbled across your site because I was looking for the lyrics to an anthem called “Carol of Joy” — music by Dan Forrest and text by Eileen Berry. Is this the same person as your friend? Can you point me to where I can find the lyrics? It’s an absolutely beautiful anthem.

  10. “The Princess and the Kiss” is a neat little tale of purity for girls. We got my daughter a copy when she turned 8 I believe…when we were in the “thick” of princess world. It is a constructive way to use “princess mania”. =)


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