I Am NOT a Princess!, by Bethany Burt/Illustrated by Brenda McCallum, (Oct. 2016, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764352126
Recommended for ages 3-6
Eliza loved to twirl and twirl, and she loved dressing up like a princess. She flashed her beautiful dress, jewelry, and glass slippers; but Mom asked her to go grocery shopping with her. Grocery shopping?! Princesses don’t grocery shop! They have servants to do that sort of thing for them! Honestly! She twirls away, turning down opportunities to go biking with her best friend and play baseball with her brother and his friends. Princesses don’t do things that could get their dresses dirty! When Eliza’s dad offers to let her help him paint – something she loves to do – and she turns it down because princesses don’t paint, her dad asks her what princess do, then. Eliza realizes that, come to think of it, princesses – at least, the way she’s thinking of them – don’t do much other than twirl and look pretty. That’s no fun! Maybe she doesn’t want to be a princess, after all!
I have to admit, I was conflicted while reading this book. I grew up loving my Barbies and I see little girls around me, including my niece, love their Princesses, and they aren’t the type to turn down getting good and dirty while wearing a tutu. I can see where a little girl who may have a certain vision of being a princess in her head – the princesses that are waited on hand and foot and twirl around looking pretty – may need a slight dose of reality, but enjoying Disney Princesses isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Princesses like Merida and Mulan and Belle sure teach us that.
I Am NOT a Princess is a good book to emphasize the importance of play-acting and the importance of having a strong sense of self. You can be a princess, and you can – and should – help around the house and go out and play. If you’re worried about a mixed message, talk about the positive characteristics of princesses: Belle’s love of reading and refusal to be bullied by the Beast; Merida’s skill with a bow and arrow; Mulan’s ability to train and fight toe to toe with the men in her army; Ariel’s rebellious nature. The most important characteristic any princess or prince needs is a good self-esteem.
The cute art will appeal to readers, as will the pink and pastel colors. Eliza is adorable, and her twirling makes her especially fun and girly. I love the clear, glossy crown on Eliza’s head on the cover of the book; it’s a nice, added touch that will draw eyes (and fingers) to the book. Little girls in my library are always asking for “Princess Books”, so this, along with Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony, Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious books, Catherine Hapka’s Sofia the First, and my Disney Princess books, will make for a fun display. Just make sure that the little girls in your life know that balance is good – you can be a princess and help around the house and enjoy getting dirty; it’s not a one or the other choice.