Tag Archives: Atypical Princesses

Primrose by Alex T. Smith

Primrose: Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Children's Books, 2013)

Primrose: Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Children’s Books, 2013)

This is one of those picture books that should be in every library, every nursery, every school and every bookshelf. I’m afraid there may be a large amount of gushing about to follow, but I’ll try to contain it.

Primrose is a pink princess; but she’s also the antithesis to the typical Pink Princess. She lives in a “pretty pink palace” and has “a pretty pink tiara, two prancing pink ponies and a plump little pug named Percy.” In many other hands, I might be running a mile by this point. But… Well, just look at the artwork for a start:

[Apologies for the appalling picture quality. I’ll replace with pictures taken in natural light as soon as possible!]

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Primrose is bored, bored, bored! So she tries to have some fun but everything she does is met with cries from her family to do something more princessy.

She’s not allowed to climb trees.

She’s not allowed to dress up in a monkey costume.

She’s not allowed to play board games.

She’s not allowed to to dig vegetables in the garden.

Princesses must dress in pretty pink dresses and sit decoratively. How utterly, wonderfully, subtly subversive this book is. All these activities are things that manufacturers and retailers would want to make you believe are not for girls. Don’t believe me? Look at the examples campaigns like Let Toys Be Toys and Pink Stinks find day after day after day. Science kits are for boys only; dressing up clothes for girls are all pink dresses and fairy wings; lego is for boys; kitchen play is for girls…

The messages that children are receiving daily in their everyday lives is disturbing and must be stopped. I battle constantly against the sexist drivel my six-year old brings home from school every day (and when she was five; and when she was four…) I have got somewhere in that Mighty-Girl now tells me that she’s the only person in her class who doesn’t think there are ‘boy’ colours and ‘girl’ colours.

My four year old used to love being a pirate and her favourite colour was orange. A year in pre-school and she wants to be a pink ballerina. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s peer pressure into pinkness that has forced this change, not her own opinion.

Primrose, a very pink princess book, is perfect. It starts with pink and frilly to lure in the princess-loving brigade, and then adds in all the other elements whilst remaining pink and frilly. Because, as I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with pink, it’s just the all-pervading non-choice that’s the problem.

Returning to the story… The royal family despair at Primrose’s lack of princessliness and decide there is “only one thing for it. Somebody must call Grandmama.” The introduction of Grandmama is perfection again. On one side we see the stern matronly visage of Her Royal Highness (Senior); on the opposite page Primrose and Percy are tiptoeing in mud, brightly clad and not a care in the world. Storm clouds are gathering, but whom are they for?

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But we really needn’t worry because Grandmama has the perfect solutions for every issue that the family have with their darling daughter and is soon bounding off again leaving everyone happy. The last double page spread showing Grandmama’s method of travel is, of course, sublime.

There are many other touches that add to this book. The copyright page ties in beautifully (“borrowed from The Royal Library”) and Percy bears an uncanny (intended) resemblance to the awesome Book Sniffer – toot toot! Overall, a sunny slice of perfection from the “royally talented” (hear hear!) Alex T. Smith.

[Apologies for the appalling picture quality. I’ll replace with pictures taken in natural light as soon as possible!]

Friday Pick{ture Book}: The Princess and The Peas

The Princess and The Peas: Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton (Nosy Crow, 2012)

The Princess and The Peas: Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton
(Nosy Crow, 2012)

I am a teeny (huge) bit of a fan of both Caryl’s and Sarah’s work separately, so this combination was hugely exciting to me. It looks like I should dislike it intensely: see the princess, see the pink cover! But this is Caryl Hart, Sarah Warburton and Nosy Crow so you know you’re going to get something wonderful and this book doesn’t disappoint.

“With all things considered, I have to assess
This disease has no cure! The girl’s a princess.”
“You have to be joking!” her father exclaimed.
“Shes a princess all right,” the doctor explained.

Forgive me for going off on an adult-focussed commentary but I absolutely love this book and need to write about it in detail! Lily-Rose May lives with her dad in a lovely home in the woods. All the pages set at home are in beautiful natural colours with a lovely garden, rabbits, nature everywhere. Lily-Rose has a dress which is white with cherries on and a red ribbon in her hair. She is wonderfully, happily, girly without the default pink-ness. Her room is shown as being bright and feminine with the natural green and yellow that permeate the ‘home’ images and there are pink things in it because why not, girls do like pink too and that is just fine.

She lives with her dad. In the background of the pictures there are photo frames where you see a happy couple on their wedding day, plus baby pictures. The whole aura is of a well-loved little girl with a very caring dad who tries his best to give her a great and healthy life. There is no mention of the mother so there seems to be a tinge of sadness behind the story but Lily-Rose and her dad are having a lovely life together. The sadness behind the scenes may be why her dad tries so hard to get her to eat peas, but this is a children’s story so it’s also a slightly surreal point that drives the story on too.

http://swillustrators.co.uk/illustrators/sarah-warburton

The doctor is quite utterly mad, and has very much the look of a mad scientist about him. The diagnosis of Princess-itis and taking Lily-Rose away from her idyllic, but normal, life is probably one that many children brought up on a diet of unrealistic expectations and reality TV dream of. The cautionary tale of “The Princess and The Pea” retold beautifully in monotone with the main characters peering around the side of a gigantic book is the second distinct colour-scheme in the book making each location very distinct from each other.

Lily-Rose is torn between her love for her dad and the promise of great things and her loving father soothes her and does what he thinks is best for her future. Onto the palace location and pink becomes the primary colour in the illustrations. There is everything a princess could wish for: dressing up room, shoe room, a huge library, a room of her own with a television, jewels and pink dresses!

She’s initially taken in by all the material things, she puts on the frilly pink dress and tiara, she bounces on the luscious pink bed, she’s smitten by the enormous library (I’ll give her that one!) but of course reality soon hits in the life of a real princess isn’t wearing clothes and looking pretty, it’s hard work meeting people, representing your family, giving speeches and encouragement, shaking hands and deportment… The food also isn’t up to much 😉 Peas may be off the menu but the replacement certainly isn’t an improvement!

http://swillustrators.co.uk/illustrators/sarah-warburton

Lily-Rose soon realises that home and her dad are where she belongs so she gives back all the jewels and clothes and goes back. The odd pea is a minor inconvenience in the wonderful life with a loving family, and all’s well that ends well.

There is too much to love in this story: the lyrical rhyming, the fun and funny story, the encouragement to eat what you’re given, the pro-books imagery everywhere, the moral that for most children, home is the best place to be and celebrity isn’t all it may seem… Maybe I read too much into it but I love, love, love what this book says to me!

As for MG and DG, they love the book for its funny story, for its beautiful illustrations, for all the details they can pick out. And of course they also love the pink palace and all the princess things but I hope the message is going in too. There’s no reason not to like pink, or to play dress up and pretend to be a princess, and to like a variety of things (including tons of pink if you want!) but reality is a different matter too and happy ever after comes in all sorts of forms…

Disclaimer: I requested & received a copy of The Princess and the Peas by Nosy Crow for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Addendum: I also bought a copy which was kindly signed by Sarah and Caryl for MG and DG, so I’ll be donating the review copy.




Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton

Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton (Orchard Books, 2010)

Sir Laughalot: Tony Mitton & Sarah Warburton
(Orchard Books, 2010)

Sometimes, when I really love a book, I find it hard to write about it. Partially because I don’t know where to start and partially because I’ve been spending too long looking at all the lovely details in the book instead of actually writing about them! This is one of those books…

He has his shield. He had his sword.
But Laughalot is feeling… bored.
What can he do? Where can he go?
Let’s find Sir Laughalot a foe.

Try as we might (because as the reader, you are leading the child through the story), we cannot find a suitable foe. There’s a dragon, a giant and a sorceress but Laughalot isn’t really the fighting kind and finds humour in every situation which all the potentially fearsome foes end up laughing along with.

Then somehow, joyously, instead he finds the perfect match for him (and he for her) and instead chooses to “chuckle all their cares away.” A great story to lift your spirits. The rhyme is fun and flows well but the illustrations, oh the illustrations are sublime! The dragon with his very spiky teeth and wiggly nasal hair; the beautiful borders around the pictures; and the scary sorceress with her tall tower and owl…

The book has also been laid out beautifully with a great mixture of full page and small detail illustrations, differing text sizes and medieval woodcut style pictures scattered throughout. A hoot and a hit!

Disclaimer: I requested & received a copy of Sir Laughalot from Hachette Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.