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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Worst Princess

Author: Anna Kemp
Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, 2012

The Worst Princess is a fun, empowering story and recommended reading for any 3-6 year old girl (and boy for that matter), to help balance out (stamp out!) some of that societal saturation of Disney Princess Syndrome.  
In terms of themes and plot, this book sits like a hybrid between Princess Smartypants  (Babette Cole, 1996) and Zog (Donaldson & Scheffler, 2010). Princess Sue has read all the books on princessly behaviour and attitudes, and she is sat in her tower dutifully (but grumpily) awaiting her prince saviour. When the prince finally arrives (and note, he is so inconsequential, he doesn't even get a name) princess Sue is alarmed to find he expects a conventional princess and takes her to his tower. Enjoying her new-found freedom Sue is angry and searches the skies for an escape plan. She is clever and fearless and on seeing a dragon, she beckons him over. they share a cup of tea and agree to pair up to rid themselves of 'the pesky prince.' The story doesn't end with a disappointing patriarchal nosedive, having an equally kick-ass ending with the princess and dragon causing mischief for 'royal twits and naughty knights'  for ever more, and living happily ever after

What I really like about this book is that the post-feminist princess rhetoric is consistent throughout. Unlike Princess Smartypants, which subverts the princess fairy-tale genre alongside plenty of pastel and pink shades, The Worst Princess is loud, proud and indignant with lots of bright purple and orange, pointy, rough-edged illustrations. At times the prose is bawdy ('twit, royal bum, stupid castle') , and there's a satirical use of ye-olde English font in parts. My Son, Bert, aged 5, likes that the princess scowls, plays with a yo-yo and wears yellow baseball boots (he notices these things!).   

The book has plenty of humour, and laugh-out loud moments at that. Edie (3) loves the part where the princessly shorts are set on fire, and I like the more dry (adult-pitched) jokes about flying 'Dragon -Air', the dragon sniffing nasal spray and the prince putting on a bossy parent voice by referring to Sue as Susan. 
The Worst Princess is refreshing and brash. Its a very welcome addition to our bookshelf, and sits proud and loud alongside all the cutesy, squeaky clean nonsense my daughter also, sadly, likes.  

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