Sunday, January 21, 2007

Princess Stories That Won't Shrink Ze Brain...

Had it with pink and Disney princesses? If your daughters, granddaughters, students, nieces, etc., are still tuned in to The Tiara Times, here are some titles for middle readers that they won't be ashamed to keep on their bookshelves for years to come.

The gold standard of modern princess tales is a book I mentioned in my December list posted on Instapundit, Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. Cursed by “that fool fairy Lucinda” with a spell that makes her always obedient to any command, Ella (short for Cinderella, of course,) has to contend with an absent father, evil stepmother and step-sisters, and the handicap of always having to obey any order, like it or not. Ella manages to fight her way through the usual fantasy foes and winds up rescuing her prince to boot. A girl’s gotta do whatever it takes, and Carson turns the Cinderella story on its head with humorous and page-turning results.

Levine continued her theme of the plucky princess wannabes in The Princess Tales, Volume I, The Princess Tales, Volume II, Two Princesses of Bamarre, and her most recent royal releases, The Wish and, for slightly older readers, Fairest, in which Aza, a plus-sized teen in a culture obsessed with physical beauty, uses her natural talent, ability, and wit to gain self approval and true love. As long as you have princess fans around, keep checking with author Gail Carson Levine, who continues to mine this fertile field with many quality titles.

A relative new kid in the royal neighborhood is Shannon Hale, author of The Goose Girl, based on the traditional Grimm's tale, and its fictional companion piece, Enna Burning. Hale's 2006 Newbery Honor Award book is The Princess Academy, in which the main character Miri, too small to work in the village quarry, finds her true calling when all Mount Eskel girls are forced to attend the Princess Academy which qualifies them to be chosen as Prince Steffan's wife. Miri is almost swept up in the princess fever which sweeps through the girls during their long, hard year of scholarship, but out of her involuntary studies she finds a love of learning and, one feels, her true love as well. (My own granddauther read this one straight through, taking time out only to sleep and eat, and pronounced it "really good!")



  • Great! Thanks. We have done Ella and the Princess Academy with great pleasure. I'll look for Princess Tales at the library. My 10 yo goes through most books in a day or two, so it is a challenge to "keep 'em coming."

    Here's a follow along question for Princess fans: Doll houses that come alive. Dolls that tell their tales are good too. Hittie the First Hundred Years and The Meanest Doll in the World type.

    Also, is anybody doing good stuff in "versions" at the moment. By versions I mean retellings. One of the things about Ella was that it was a retelling of a familiar take, with a twist. DD will happily check out, on the same day, the same story as told by 4 or 5 folks, just to see what each version brings. When she was littler it was easy, because fairy/folk tales are always retold. She enjoys some of the Shakespeare ones, but has been disappointed in the Greek/Roman myth variation books she has read.

    Nora, posting on Devereaux's account

    By Blogger Devereaux, at 11:22 PM  

  • Another series to follow would be Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia Wrede. The lead character is a princess who's decided she'd rather deal with dragons than with Royal Protocol.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:37 AM  

  • I very much enjoyed The Ordinary Princess by MM Kaye in the same vein also Clare Dunkle's Hollow Kingdom series. I consider Robin McKinley to be the pinnacle for middle/high school age kids

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:24 AM  

  • Another good series (or two) Are the Fairy Godmother books (Fairy Godmother and One Good Knight) by Mercedes Lackey.

    She also has the Elemental Master's series that is loosely based on Grimm's Fairy Tales.

    These might be better for slightly older readers, but they are all really an excellent read!

    By Blogger Shinobi, at 12:53 PM  

  • I like the book, Princess Bubble, it is a good gift for any girl from birth to graduation.

    By Blogger Susan Johnston Hamrick, at 8:57 AM  

  • We are involved in Girl Scouts in the Baltimore/Washington area and my daughter was exposed to the Medieval Maidens series created by Lois Jarman. The books are relatively unknown as Jarman self-publishes, but she puts princesses in an historical context...writing about Charlemagne's daughter and William the conqueror's daughter. Similar to American Girl, but based in Medieval history.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:54 PM  

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