Archive | May, 2013

What Have they Done to Merida?

24 May

Now Disney has done it!  They’ve done it for real!  They took a perfectly good role model princess, round-faced, curly-haired, arrow-shooting Merida, and turned her into “Disney Princess.”  I’m sure you saw the pictures.  First there was the young girl Merida with her quiver of arrows out for an adventure, and now she has been waist-whittled, hair-straightened, and relieved of her weapons.  From the look of the new image, she may also have been relieved of her self-esteem and personal strength.

So, what to do as your daughter sees yet another image of a shiny-dressed “model” model replacing the real-ish girl that was Merida?  I propose you turn to books for the anti-princess heroines that eschew tulle and lace for mud and guts.  Here are some suggestions for real girls’ books:


The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenki

This was, perhaps, the first picture book to present a princess with common sense and grit.  Princess Elizabeth is about to marry her prince when a dragon sets the marriage and her clothes closet on fire.  Clothed in only a paper bag, Elizabeth sets out to rescue her fiancé, only to find that he is less grateful than expected.


Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple.  Illustrated by Anne Sophie Langston.

The perfect antidote to “pink” books.  Yolen’s “princesses” wear glittering tiaras but pair them with mismatched clothes.  These girls roll in the mud and do pretty much what pleases them despite their royal rank.  Lacy dresses?  Never heard of them!  Girls are meant to wear sturdier stuff.


Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots, by Camilla LaVigna Coyle

This is part of a series for younger readers that urge girls to understand that what’s on the outside doesn’t make a princess.  It’s what’s on the inside that counts.


The Princess and the Pizza, by Mary Jane and Herm Auch

Princess Paulina’s dad is out of a job and the royal family is living a peasant life.  Paulina hears that there may be an opening for a princess and sets out to win the hand of the prince who is looking for a wife.  However, when the stereotyped princesses prove to be obnoxious competition, Paulina discovers that she has other options in life.

And for slightly older readers or for sharing:


Free to be You and Me, edited by Marlo Thomas.

Yes, I know it’s dated and your mother probably read it to you in the seventies.  However, there is nothing better than the version of the story of Atalanta in this book, about a princess who learns to run her own race and rejects her father’s order to marry a young man when she wants to travel the world.  Also, Shel Silverstein’s Ladies First, about a frilly little girl who gets her comeuppance when she ends up as a tiger’s blue plate special still makes me laugh.


Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls, by Jane Yolen and Susan Guevera

It seems that Jane Yolen has made a career of redefining stories for girls.   In this terrific collection, you will find traditional folktales, but told with a strong female voice.  Stories are drawn from European, Native American, and African traditions.


Girls Think of Everything, By Melissa Sweet.

Just in case you think strong women are all fictional, here is a collection biography of all the ways that women inventors have contributed to the world.  You’ll be fascinated to find that women have invented everything from white out to windshield wipers.

You may not be able to get your daughter to hang up her Belle and Aurora costumes, but at least offer them an alternative through books.  Yes, they can even wear a tiara while they’re reading these better choices.

– Lois Gross, Children’s Librarian and Head of the Children’s Department

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green: Much More than “Okay”

20 May


That simple word holds so much meaning for Hazel and Augustus, the teenage protagonists in The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

(Click the picture to request this book.)

Hazel, a teenage girl living with terminal cancer, reluctantly attends a support group at a local church for kids with the disease to appease her mother. Since her illness keeps her out of high school, the support group offers an opportunity to socialize.

But Hazel doesn’t want to make friends, because of her condition. She compares herself to a grenade about to go off. She doesn’t want to hurt too many people when she dies, which is likely to happen sooner rather than later.

Things change when Augustus (aka Gus) joins the support group.

Their friendship grows and ultimately develops into romance. They engage in lively discussions and passionate disagreements. They bond over books, including Hazel’s favorite, “An Imperial Affliction”. Hazel considers the author of that book, Peter Van Houten, her third best friend after her parents.

Gus uses his “Genie Foundation” wish for a trip to Amsterdam so he and Hazel can meet the reclusive Peter Van Houten. Gus surprises Hazel with this news via an adorably literal orange-themed picnic, a nod to the Netherlands’ national color.

This book has some laugh-out-loud moments, but also considers deeper questions about the meaning of life and dying. Hazel wants to live out her life quietly while Gus wants to be remembered once he’s gone. They discuss the awfulness of cancer, and why the disease takes some but not others.

I enjoyed the hyper-literate dialogue between Hazel and Gus. Green writes them as wise beyond their years, but the well-placed “likes” and “umms” show they’re still teenagers.

This book is in the Young Adult genre, but adults will enjoy it as well. Good storytelling is ageless, in my opinion. I am still thinking about this book days after finishing, which is a testament to Green’s talent.

In this video John Green talks about writing and the inspiration for The Fault in Our Stars, as well as autographing (by hand) the entire 150,000 copy first printing of the book. Wow!

If you’re into star-crossed romances or smartly written fiction, definitely check out this book.

Also, a movie adaptation of the book is in the works, so read it before the cinematic release! I believe that the book is always better than my movie. What do you think?

John Green has also written Looking for AlaskaPaper TownsWill Grayson, Will Grayson; and An Abundance of Katherines, all available at the library to borrow. I read and enjoyed Looking for Alaska a few years ago, which is very different thematically than The Fault In Our Stars.

Green has a major online presence through his website and Twitter. He also posts video blogs (vlogs) to YouTube, in which his brother Hank co-stars.

I’d like to close out this post by sharing the book’s jacket copy, which I think is absolutely excellent and made me fall in love with this book, and with Hazel and Gus.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Okay? Okay.

Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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