Books for girls who love Disney Princesses


A heartfelt tweet on Twitter from @childledchaos this morning says, “The Disney Cinderella princess book I read is such a non-book I can’t find it on Goodreads! #mydaughtershavenotaste”.

@Childledchaos’s daughters are five and three, according to her profile, and her tweet took me back eight years, to when I was reading Disney books to my two princess-obsessed daughters. I went for Disney Princesses, rather than Barbie which I managed to ban, on the basis that the films themselves have merit and that they are introducing children to proper stories, but I really don’t know who I was kidding. We had dressing up dresses and dolls and books as well as the films on video. The Disney Princess books (I remember with particular sinking of spirits a big hardback collection of Disney Princess stories that was requested again and again) were not my own favourite read-alouds: it seemed to me that they had none of the wit, or pacing, or narrative verve of many of the other picture books on their shelves.

But my girls loved those princesses. A few months ago, I wrote about gender-skewed packaging and content in children’s books and followed up with a personal take on it. Though I didn’t love that hardback collection of stories, I don’t see anything wrong with princess stories.

Here are a few of Nosy Crow’s alternatives for pincess-obsessed girls:

The Princess and the Peas

This picture book is released this month in paperback as one of the first books in our Stories Aloud. Perfectly pink with illustrations by Sarah Warburton, it has a jaunty rhyming text by Caryl Hart in the course of which Lily Rose-May discovers that being a princess is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Cinderella: 3-D Fairy Tale

We released this multi-award-winning app in 2011, and it is viewed as a touchstone of multimedia, interactive children’s storytelling for screens. The text sticks close to traditional versions of the story, but there are additional layers of dialogue to explore that flesh out the characters and bring the story up to date. I wrote here about the decisions we’d made to bring our telling of the story up to date, making Cinderella less passive and reducing the emphasis on appearance and pretty dresses.

Rescue Princesses series

While we envisage this mainly as a 7+ read-alone series, I did enough reading of Rainbow Magic to a three year-old to know that these fiction titles would work as read-alouds for younger children. Written by Paula Harrison, who wrote about her own daughters’ interest in princesses here, the books feature princesses rescuing animals. The princesses are brave, loyal and physically active, with some nifty ninja moves as well as magic jewels.

Other princess books we’d suggest to parents like @childledchaos who are hoping to diversity bedtime reading for princess-obsessed children would include these:

New retellings:

The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child

Cinderella: Flip Flap Fairy Tales by Stephen Tucker and Nick Sharratt

Ella’s Big Chance by Shirley Hughes

New stories featuring princesses:

The Princess and the Wizard by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

You Can’t Eat a Princess by Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre

Katie and the Spanish Princess by James Mayhew

(and see my comment below re The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene)

Stories that more explicitly subvert princess stereotypes:

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole

Zog by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman, Cornelius van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Princess books for slightly older readers:

Princess Mirror-Belle stories by Julia Donaldson

Louise and Camilla both advocate The Princess Evie’s Ponies books by Sarah Kilbridge and Sophie Tilley: they’ve seen them in action with children who love them. Kristina suggested Tony Ross’s Little Princess series.

And Kirsty, just generally in the course of this discussion, directed me towards this article about Steve Biddulph’s new book about raising girls. Camilla concurred, saying that she’d asked her seven year-old daughter why girls like playing princesses, “expecting she’d say something about being special and having nice dresses and jewels, but she said that she thought it was entirely due to the fact that girls like being rescued by boys. How depressing is that?!”

The picture at the top of this blog post is of a princess drawn on an iPad by Charlotte, age 4, and we have permission to reproduce it from her dad, @readitdaddy, for which many thanks.

What books would you suggest for Disney Princess-loving children?


No Responses to “Books for girls who love Disney Princesses”

  • Great post! I have a small person of eight who loves princesses, but is a tom-boy, so Rescue Princesses is a real Favourite! You should look out for Margaret Shannon’s ‘The Red Wolf’ too. It’s fantastic it’s about a princess who is locked up by her father because ‘the world is too wild’ for her. But with the help of some enchanted yarn she knits her self a Red Wolf suit, and breaks free.I think you’d love it…

  • The official merchandised Disney Princess books are a pretty atrocious mix, even the ones that pull content from the original movies and distil them down a bit. Charlotte is always disappointed by them (yet she loves anything even vaguely connected to Princesses, as you can see!) so we’ve taken to buying books that leapfrog back to the original stories. Orchard Press’ version of “Beauty and the Beast” is precisely the sort of book I’d steer a Princess fan towards, and also the superb “The Worst Princess” for a truly contemporary and brilliant Princess to idolise. Fantastic blog post and massive thanks for featuring Charlotte’s art :)

  • If you are looking for a story about a less than conventional princess my daughter (age 4) likes The Kite Princess by Juliet Clare Bell.

    Cinnamon Stitch is a princess who doesn’t want to behave like the stereotypical princess her parents want her to be. My daughter finds her tomboy actions very amusing and I think it is great that the princess character is portrayed as strong minded, independent and free spirited.

    Thank you for an interesting blog post. It is reassuring to know that I am not the only parent who is not particularly happy with a small daughter’s Disney Princess obsession!

  • I always love the Paper Bag Princess when I was little, but I forgot that the Disney Princesses were princesses at all (except for Jasmine) for some reason – perhaps because the dolls I had of them always ended up rock climbing or something? Probably explains why I like the Rescue Princesses so much too!

    No idea why little girls seem to love princesses, but I followed a link the other day via Jen at Cake Wrecks to a whole industry in the US of Birthday Princesses. This is where you pay someone to arrive at your little girl’s party as a Disney princess, right down to the trivia references and gravity-defying hair. Some of the insights on one particular Princess’s blog are really interesting and give more insight into why little girls are so fascinated than I thought possible. It’s here for anyone who’s interested :)

    For a really subversive Princess I like The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett. The baby Princess and the pig get switched at birth and the poor piggy has to play Princess, including wearing frocks!

  • I remember when my youngest two, who are girl twins, were 7 and had very different experiences playing in a mixed group on a holiday we were on. One of them, who is very keen on all things technical and is now, at 13, the person I ask to fix anything in the house, came to me very upset, as she wanted to play with the bikes and model cars, and the other girls (not the boys or the adults supervising) told her she wasn’t allowed. They told her that she shouldn’t play with the things boys played with, and that she had to come and play mummies with her twin and the rest of them, but she said she didn’t know how to be a mummy and she’d rather play with the bikes.

    I went to see the lady supervising the holiday play group, and when I told her what my daughter said she said ‘what a wise girl – I don’t know if I know how to be a mummy either!’..I’m glad to say she not only played with the bikes, but they broadened the activities to include pond dipping and Nature walks and everyone was much happier..

    This is a very interesting post. I’d love to see more books with technical girl heroines…in fact, as I live with a girl technical whizz kid perhaps I should do something positive and try to write one myself….!!

  • Thanks, all, for your comments. Booka Uhu, your comment reminds me (and you’ll see I’ve since amended the post to reflect this) that Kristina suggested The Princess and the Pig. I KNEW that I’d left out one of the books that came up, but couldn’t remember what it is until you jogged my memory.

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