School's out in most places now, and Sprout's preschool has shifted to its summer program. His school does an end-of-year progress report, which was really interesting. His skills are coming along, especially in regard to literacy. But what made me smile was that his teacher noted Sprout's awareness of the various parts of a book - title, author, illustrator - and that he identifies many authors with their specific works. I love this! Way to make a librarian mama proud!
And it is that very awareness of authors that helped me get him to buy in to today's pick. I thought princesses might be a tough sell as a topic, because lately we just seem to want to read about dinosaurs and trucks and trains and other rough-and-tumble subjects. But the minute he heard that Not All Princesses Dress in Pink was written by Jane Yolen, together with her daughter Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Sprout was in with no question. He loves Yolen's Dinosaurs books, such as How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? and others. So princesses were no hurdle at all (though I think he did secretly hope a dinosaur would pop up here or there).
If you're looking for a book to combat the saccharine depiction of princesses that's so pervasive, you know you've got the right pick from the very front cover. The girls are literally constructing the frame for the title -- how great is that? Yolen and Stemple give us some decidedly un-fussy princesses in all sorts of arenas. We have sporty girls, crafty girls, gardening girls, sword-fighting girls (Sprout likes the latter best). In each page, the princesses appear in non-traditional garb, in a variety of different situations. But each girl wears a "sparkly crown" - lest we forget they are princesses, after all!
The diversity here is also a nice touch. I love the way illustrator Anne-Sophie Lanquetin weaves in plenty of different sorts of girls to make even the background characters something you'll want to pore over. In addition to princesses whose roles are nonstereotypical, we have a vast range of skin, hair and eye colors to boot. And the individual personalities of the girls comes out in the last big spread, where the entire cast dances together, all to their own tunes. Sprout cracks up over the one who "hip-hops in her overalls". "She's dancing way silly, Mama!" he tells me each time. Love it!
When you want to cut through the Disneyfied tulle-and-sequined vibe and find an approach for your little princess (or prince) that's entirely unique, this is the book you're after. And you may just find a kiddo in your life building her own treehouse -- all while wearing a very sparkly princess crown, of course!
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, published by Simon & Schuster
Sample: "Not all princesses dress in pink. Some play in bright red socks that stink, / blue team jerseys that don't quite fit, accessorized with a baseball mitt, / and a sparkly crown."