Power to the Princess
Written by Vita Weinstein Murrow
Illustrated by Julia Bereciartu
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (Quarto)
Publication date: 6th September 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
In this stunning anthology, 15 favorite fairy tales have been retold for a new generation. These princesses are smart, funny, and kind, and can do anything they set their minds to. They are:
Snow White—champion of real beauty
Sleeping Beauty—specialist on sleeping disorders
Thumbelina—music producer and advocate
Belle the Brave—undercover agent
Elisabeth and the Wild Swans—fashion designer
Cinderella—prime minster and businesswoman
Star and the 12 Dancers—dancer
The Goose Girl—stand-up comedian
Princess Sevinah (and the Pea)—founder of the Fairyland Dating Service
The Snow Queen—winter sports coach
The Little Mermaid—advocate for peace between mer-people and humans
Zade—storyteller (of 1001 tales) and businesswoman
Evangeline (The Frog Princess)—natural historian
Little Red Riding Hood—environmentalist and Princess of the Wolves
Focused on issues including self-image, confidence, LGBTQ, friendship, advocacy, and disability, these stories are perfect for sharing between parents and children, or for older princesses or princes to read by themselves. They teach that a princess is a person who seeks to help others, is open to learning new things, and looks for ways to add purpose to their lives and the lives of those around them.
Power to the princess!
Once upon a time, in a sunny French province, lived a girl called Belle. Belle the Brave to be precise, because Belle was fearless.
I had to read this as soon as I saw it because I love fairy tales!
Many traditional tales can seem problematic when viewed through modern eyes, especially with gender roles, over-reliance on physical appearance as a reflection of character and attitudes to difference. There has been a recent trend towards re-imaginings of fairy tales with a feminist twist and this collection looks to recast fairytale princesses as mistresses of their own destiny!
First impressions: I like the style of the cover which looks like something you would find on a traditionally-bound collection of folktales. The interior illustrations by Julia Bereciartu are colourful and both bear homage to older illustrations while subverting them in playful ways. Vita Weinstein Murrow‘s language is very modern, almost jarringly so at times, with characters referring to trade unions and scientific research and the tone is quite conversational, as many people would speak and is therefore quite accessible for younger readers, despite perhaps not being what you would expect in a fairy tale.
I really liked the greater diversity shown in names, illustrations and relationships, all of which serve to modernise some of these old tales. In particular, I liked some of the challenges of gender roles with, for example, Prens (in Cinderella) being a fashion aficionado!
I did feel that it worked better with some stories than others, particularly in stories where the new story bears only a fleeting resemblance to the original. My personal favourites were The Princess and the Pea and Belle the Brave. My e-ARC only contained 7 of the 15 stories (in bold on list above) which will be included in the final version, but I can tell from those seven that this will definitely be worth the read! While reading, I did also come across some typing errors, but I imagine that all of these will be ironed out for the final copy.
(Update: I e-mailed the publishers and they immediately sent me an updated version with ALL of the stories and the typos corrected – great work!)
This book would be perfect for fans of fairy tales or children who would like to be little princes or princesses, just not THAT sort of stereotypical prince or princess.
In this kingdom, united by compassion, where everyone made space for one another, and celebrated differences, they really did live happily ever after.
What I liked: Greater diversity in the stories e.g. same-sex couple, people with names from different cultures, women saving themselves from problems, etc. I liked the style of the illustrations and the messages sent by the stories – definitely a worthy update to the original traditional tales.
Even better if:
I would like to see the rest of the stories in this collection! Also, I hope that the spelling and grammatical errors can be fixed before publication. All fixed already so I am pleased to say that the only thing that could make this better is having the hard copy in my hands already!
How you could use it in your classroom: This would be fantastic to read alongside other alternative or fractured fairy tales and as springboards to discussion about some of the problematic content in older stories. How has our society changed so that some of these stories now require updating? Which changes did you like most? Which otehr changes could be amde?
(Thank you to Frances Lincoln and Netgalley for my e-ARC)
If you liked this, why not look at Tangleweed and Brine, a collection of feminist fairytale retallings for adults?
Or Louise O’Neill’s feminist re-imagining of The Little Mermaid, The Surface Breaks? (review to come)
While you’re here, why not check out some other books with strong female characters? For example, Cinderella and the Furry Slippers, Ban This Book, The Cruel Prince, Stardust, Princess Lila builds a Tower, The Bookshop Girl or Starfish?
Finally, why not learn some fairy tale vocabulary in 10 languages?
Thanks for reading!