Princess Picture Books (with attitude)

Looking for princess picture books that don't involve pink tulle or glitter? Hoping to gently suggest to your little princess in training that she should be the hero and not wait for a prince to save the day? Here are a few stories of anti-establishment princesses - funny, strong princesses who kick patootie:

The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (Annick Press, 1992) This is my favorite princess story. A feisty, smart princess sets off to rescue a prince captured by a dragon. By the end of the story, she has defeated the dragon using wits alone and clad in a paper bag (her outfit was burnt by the dragon), saved the prince, and decided she's better off by herself when the princes turns out to be ungrateful and rude. This is a funny and clever story with a great girl power message.

Princess Smartypants, by Babette Cole (Puffin, 1997) Princess Smartypants doesn't want to get married; she just wants to hang out with her pets. To dissuade her suitors, she sets tasks that are exactly too difficult for each prince (a huge slug bests Prince Compost, scary trees chase Prince Bashthumb, etc.). One day, Prince Swashbuckle turns up and meets every challenge, but when Princess Smartypants gives him a magic kiss, he turns into a warty frog. She lives happily ever after by herself. The whimsical illustrations and good humor make this a lighthearted and fun read.

The Princesses Have a Ball, by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Lynne Cravath (Whitman & Co., 2002) In this variation of the 12 Dancing Princesses, the princesses refuse to abide by their father's idea of what proper princesses are, and instead spend their nights wearing out their shoes playing basketball. A perceptive cobbler finally discovers the princesses' secret and designs basketball shoes that won't wear out every night. The princesses end up throwing a ball that turns out to be a basketball game, winning over their father and guests.

Jane and the Dragon, by Martin Bayton (Candlewick, 2007) In this sweet and heartwarming tale, Jane is being trained to be a lady-in-waiting, but really wants to be a knight. Everyone she tells her dream disparages her, except for the court jester who gives her a set of armor. She secretly trains as a knight and one day finds herself the only one able to rescue the prince who has been captured by a dragon. After a long fight, an impasse, a conversation, and a revelation, the dragon and Jane end up friends, and Jane returns the hero. She has her pick of boys to dance with at the celebratory ball, and she chooses her truest friend, the jester. 

What good princess picture books have you read lately?

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