My daughter is now five and three quarters (those three quarters count a lot for her!) and, as I mentioned in the last post, we visit the library regularly to feed her (thankfully) insatiable appetite for new reading material.
My background in sociology and my move into feminism means that I’m more aware than ever of the cultural brainwashing that goes on through books, especially when it comes to gender and especially in those aimed at children.
So, you can imagine my reaction when my daughter presented me with Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman (2007).
All that pink!
“Are you sure you want this one?” I asked, conscious that I shouldn’t be influencing her choices too much, whilst also concerned that she was choosing such a horrendous looking book…
“Yes mummy!” she nodded emphatically.
We read almost every evening before bed. I remember when my mum would read to my brother and I. We’d alternate who’s room we read in and snuggle down whilst she transported us into another world of talking cats, portentous crows or adventuring Halflings. She did all the different voices and was always patient if we corrected her here and there.
So I carry on the tradition and love to read to my daughter.
I put off Princess Grace until we had nothing else left to read. Finally I settled down, expecting to be frustrated by this tale.
But, quite the opposite!
Grace’s teacher tells the class that all of the schools will be taking part in a parade and there will be a Queen and two princesses on each float.
At first the girls are excited and the boys side-lined “Princesses are boring!”
I found myself grimacing, ‘great, it’s one of those’….
The girls consider their outfits, going to story books to see what princesses wear, deciding that whatever else, they must be pretty.
“There’s more than one way to be pretty,” says Nana sagely.
So the girls begin to consider what a princess actually does and conclude that it’s not much more than wear beautiful clothes and look pretty…
“That doesn’t sound so interesting.” Says Grace.
They ask their teacher about Princesses. She tells them about Amina of Nigeria leading warriors into battle, Pin-Yang of China who started a women’s army, and more modern princesses who are scientists, sportswomen, artists…
They learn about princesses in folk tales and fairy stories from around the world who have adventures that couldn’t possibly take place in a pretty pink dress!
I think this is a wonderful story.
It has so many good messages for children of both genders. Challenging them to look deeper at the cultural norms they’re bombarded with. To question stereotypes and expectations. It looks at equality and history and investigation. All great lessons in a beautifully illustrated book.
I’d recommend this book to any parent who’s sensitive to the genderising of so many things aimed at children. And to any parent who is just looking for a good story for their child.
Finally, it reminded me to never judge a book by it’s cover!
Princess Grace is part of a series of books about Grace, it’s not a new series having started out with Amazing Grace in 1991 which has received high praise indeed but they’re new to me and I’ll definitely be seeking out the others in the series.
Credits – All thanks to my local library for lending me the book that I’ve photographed for this blog post. I’ve linked back to Amazon as that is the site that Mary Hoffman is directing people to for purchasing.