princesses with panache

There seems to be no way to escape princesses when you have two little girls these days. While many of the princesses out there fit into the Disneyfied style of a pretty girl who needs to be saved by prince charming, there are plenty of stories that feature strong girls who just happen to also be princesses. Here is a selection of some of our favorites.


The Paper Bag Princess – this might possibly be my personal all time favorite princess book. I don’t think J loves it as much as I do, but she does enjoy it. In this story, Princess Elizabeth’s boyfriend is kidnapped by a dragon who also burns down her castle. Wearing only a paper bag, she searches for the dragon to get Prince Ronald back.  Using her intelligence and cunning she not only finds the dragon, but outwits him and is able to save Prince Ronald. The Not-So-Charming prince isn’t pleased with her appearance as she saves him and rudely tells her “You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” Elizabeth retorts with my favorite line of the entire book – “‘Ronald, your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a prince, but you are a bum.”‘ They didn’t get married after all.”

Brave – Yes, it is a Disney story, but they did a great job of creating a strong princess who doesn’t need to be rescued. If you don’t already know the story, Princess Merida is a free-spirited 16 year old girl who excels at archery. Her father decides it is time to marry her off to one of three local princes. She balks at the idea and finds a way to circumvent the age-old custom. When her mother scolds her for disobeying the rules, she runs to the forest, manages to find a witch who casts a spell to “change her mother.” Little did she expect that it would mean change her mother into a bear! In order to set things right, mother and daughter manage to figure out how to communicate with each other and “mend the bond torn by pride.” It is a great story of strength and the mother/daughter bond.

The Princess and the Frozen Packet of Peas – We all know the story of the princess and the pea, a girl has to prove that she is a true princess by sleeping on a pea and being uncomfortable. Somehow I find that notion slightly degrading and annoying. Imagine my surprise when we found this retelling of the story that turned that idea on its head! Prince Henrik is a young prince who wants to get married, but hopes to find a princess who likes hockey and camping, just like him. He asked his older brother for advice and was told to make sure she is a “real princess.” Henrik’s brother had tested his wife by putting a single pea under a stack of twenty mattresses. “If a girl complains about feeling the pea through mattress and eiderdown quilts, she is a real princess.” Henrik then watches his sister-in-law and didn’t like the way she acted and treated people. He wanted to marry someone exactly the opposite. So Prince Henrik used one thin mattress instead of twenty and instead of one pea, he used a packet of frozen peas. “Many young girls visited, but none passed the test.” When his friend Pippa came over, he also put her to the test. She loved having the frozen peas in her bed as they worked as an ice pack for her shin that was sore from a hockey game. Henrik asked her to marry him because, while she wasn’t a real princess, she would be “an unreal princess.” I love the fact that it shows that you can still be a princess while being true to yourself.

The Usborn Book of Princess Stories – This book was brought back from London for my 2 year old daughter. She loves it so much that I find myself reading her the 4 short stories in this collection every night. These stories are incredibly simple and have some odd grammer issues, but she loves them and they feature a princess who isn’t a damsel in distress. Each story is about Prince Max and Princess Alice. Alice likes pigs, stands up to a dragon, dresses up like a boy so she can joust and flies her grandmother’s magic broom. It’s a great read for your smaller princesses.

Sadie the Paper Crown Princess –  Sadie is a “little girl not very different from most other girls.” She enjoys tea parties, dressing up, drawing, climbing trees, making mud pies and fishing. She is expected to go to Princess Academy where she will learn proper princess etiquette and earn her tiara. She wanted to be a princess, but she also wanted to be more. She struggles at princess school and her teachers claim she needs to prove that she has a true royal heart. Their final exam is an around the world adventure where Sadie both learns and proves that she truly does have a real princess’s heart – one of altruism and humanity. Oddly enough, I was able to talk to J about this story in comparison to a recent episode of Sophia the First where Sophia proves that he is a real princess by being the only one in her school to help someone in need.

The Very Fairy Princess – Geraldine is a little girl who believes that deep down, she is a fairy princess. With her spark and charm, Gerry goes about her day following the princess rules – she is always presentable, has refined taste, is very practical, very supportive, knows when to take charge, is very creative, and knows that practice makes perfect, even if you get a skinned knee in the process. Written by Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, it is a very sweet story for the fairy princess in all of us.

Dangerously Ever After – Our newest princess book shows that princesses don’t have to always be sugar and spice and everything nice. Princess Amanita loves all things that are dangerous. Brakeless bicycles, pet scorpions, spiky plants–that’s her thing. So when quiet Prince Florian gives her roses, Amanita is unimpressed . . . until she sees their glorious thorns! Now she must have rose seeds of her own. But when huge, honking noses grow instead, what is a princess with a taste for danger to do? It is a silly story, but a good change of pace with beautiful art.

We are always on the lookout for good books. For more great books that have princesses with panace, check out the A Mighty Girl’s ultimate guide to the independent princess.


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