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“Princesses do not run. Princesses do not stuff frilly pink dresses into broom closets. Princesses do not wear black.” Princess Magnolia is entertaining Dutchess Wingtower in her castle when her glitter-stone ring rings to alert her that a monster is escaping from Monsterland. Telling her company she needs to tend to some sick birds (how ladylike!), she sneaks off to save the world in secret. Listen, I get it – The Princess in Black is an adorable little counter-culture piece about how girls can kick butt, too. But why bother to write a girl power story just to shroud it in stereotypical messages about what girls “should” and “shouldn’t” do, even if they are to be read sarcastically? The target audience for this book is a beginning reader in first or second grade, right when kids are really exploring and cementing their understanding of gender roles. So while there is a definite note of sarcasm in Princess’ feminine expectations, first and second graders are unlikely to get it if they’re reading independently, which leaves them with a different takeaway entirely. With its whimsical fairy tale language and illustrations, I got a kick out of this little book; as an adult, I was able to put the paradoxical text in perspective. The same is probably not true for little readers. If you’re going to make a girl power book meant for little independent readers, make it a book about girls being strong and brave and proud of it – instead of having them change in broom closets and tiptoe away from their victories.
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