In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Princesses with parents

Dear Annie,

 We've kicked around princess-ness a lot on this blog, but I have two new entries to the discussion.

The first Fancy Nancy, by Jane O'Conner, came out five years ago. I resisted it for a while because it seemed so pink-and-girly. Okay, technically it's not a princess book, but it struck me as being full of the same problems: pink, obsession with clothes and  bossiness.  I'm still a bit dismayed at what a franchise Nancy has become: four big hardcovers, several more small hardcovers, and a slew of paperback I-Can-Read books.  But the core of Fancy Nancy is quite likable.  In the first book, she tries to teach her family (parents and younger sister) how to be fancy, which basically involves the  whole family wearing Nancy's dress-ups and going out to a pizza joint, pretending that all is quite elegant.  There's a playfully indulgent air about the parents.  When Nancy drops the dessert tray of ice cream sundaes, "I don't feel fancy anymore.  I want to go home," she says in tears.  They go home, clean up, and eat ice cream at the kitchen table.  In the end, the important thing is the loving goodnight from the parents.  In another Fancy Nancy (Bonjour Butterfly), Nancy is furious because she'll have to miss a friend's fancy party to go to her grandparents' 50th anniversary party.  Despite her tantruming, her parents stand firm and they celebrate with the grandparents: no compromises here.  She  ends up having a delightful time, and all generations are happy.  The moral to these stories tends to be that family is important and fun.

I'm curious if you've run into any of the F.N. books, and what you and Eleanor think of them.

On the regal front, there's a truly lovely book, complete with pink glittery cover:
The Queen of France
, by Tim Wadham.
When Rose woke up that morning, she felt royal.

She opened the box of jewelry.
She put on the necklaces.
She put on the bracelets.

She went to the make-believe basket.
She put on the crown.

The Queen of France went to find Rose’s mother
In her persona as queen, Rose finds each of her parents and asks them if they've seen Rose.  They respond in character, straight-faced. Then Rose takes off her dress-up clothes and goes back to her parents searching for the Queen of France.  This goes back and forth a few times.  My favorite scene, in the kitchen:
"Hello, Rose's mother," said the Queen of France.
"Hello again," said Rose's mother.
"I am shocked to see that you do your own cooking," said the queen.
"Well, here in the village, we have to cook for ourselves."
The queen proposes to Rose's mother that she and Rose trade places, but when she discovers that Rose's mother will miss her "infinity times infinity," the deal is off.  The whole family is happy that Rose hasn't moved to the palace.  In the last page, Rose is getting into dress-ups again: this time it's a dragon costume.

This book has style.  It has subtlely.  It has loving humor.  It has great parents  And a girl who wants to be queen -- sometimes.  I'm quite fond of it.



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