The Has-Nothing-To-Do-With-Princesses Book List

Amelia, the Original Pigtail Pal, reading a pile of books about whales, dolphins, and a sea-exploring penguin.

The other day a list was posted in the New York Times in a post that offered parents advice on how to fight Princess Culture. The only thing is, the list was full of books about princesses. Granted the books seemed to be really good stories that expanded the definition of what a princess is and does…..but still,

all the stories were about princesses.
The article said one of the ways that parents can fight Princess Culture is by “offering examples of femininity without the frills”. I think that is an excellent idea, but can we PLEASE not LIMIT femininity to princesses, even the kind that scrape their knees?

I took Amelia to the library for the first time when she was four months old. I was so excited to start reading stories with her. She is now a newly minted five years old, and in the past few years we have read a couple hundred books or so. Our family owns an obscene amount of books (like, 10 bookshelves worth of books) and at any given time we have about 30-40 books checked out from our library.  

 We read some books about princesses, some of our faves are the “Princess and the Pea” and the “Morgan and Me” series. But my daughter does not now, nor has she ever, really had an interest in princesses. Volcanoes, spiders, dinosaurs, and dolphins have been more her thing. I try to fill her world with all kinds of stories and characters, because that’s what childhood is all about. These stories are like vitamins for her imagination.

 I asked the Pigtail Pals Parent Community to come up with our own list, that included characters and places and stories that opened up the ENTIRE world to our kiddos. As usual, the PtP Mamas came through! Check out this amazing list we came up with in one afternoon!

For licensed character books, we liked: Olivia, Toot & Puddle, Diego, Dora, Wonder Pets, Max & Ruby, Curious George, Clifford, Sesame Street, Winnie the Pooh, and Thomas the Tank Engine

Authors we love, falling into the “anything written by this person” category: Laura Numeroff, Shel Siverstein, Dr.Seuss, Cynthia Rylant, Eric Carle, Mo Willems, Kevin Henkes, Jan Brett, Nancy Tafuri, Sandra Boynton, Karen Katz, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Clearly, Judy Blume, and Janell Cannon

Old childhood classics: “Goodnight Moon”, Frog & Toad, Courdory the Bear, Frances the Badger, and George & Martha (hippos, by James Marshall)

Modern faves: Llama books by Anna Dewdney, How Does a Dinosaur…series by Jane Yolen, Biscuit the Puppy books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”,  “Guess How Much I Love You”, “Only One You”, “The One, The Only Magnificent Me!”, and Jane and the Dragon series by Martin Baynton

Puzzle and Comic books: I Spy series, Calvin & Hobbes, and Where’s Waldo?

Winner’s From Scholastic: “The Snow Angel”, “Sadie and the Snowman”, “The Littlest Owl”, “The Sandwich Swap”, “Wherever You Are”, “Ballyhoo Bay”, “The Flea’s Sneeze”, “Fish Wish”, “Not Norman”, “The Littlest Dinosaur”, “Commotion in the Ocean”, “Rumble in the Jungle”, “Dinosaurs Galore”, “Night Pirates”, and “Lola Loves Stories”

International Stories: Barefoot Books, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, “Words In The Dust”,  “Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters:Heroines in Folktales from Around the World”, and “Polkabats and Octopus Slacks”

For Little Sized Readers (board books): any and all books by Sandra Boynton and Karen Katz, Little Quack series, Maisy series, “Goodnight Gorilla”, Baby Bundt series, “Baby Dance”, “Backyard Bedtime”, “Goodnight America” and “Goodnight Ocean” by Adam Gamble, Five Little Monkeys series, Gossie & Friends, “Sheep in a Jeep” and “Sheep in a Shop”

For Medium Sized Readers: Elephant & Piggie series, “How Deep Is the Sea?”, “Millie Gets the Mail”, “Violet the Pilot”, “Zin Zin Zin a Violin!”, “Mary Had A Little Lamp”, “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen!”, “Not A Box”, “Not A Stick”, “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw, and Freckleface Strawberry series. Other classics are Judy Blum, Beaverly Cleary’s “Ramona Quimby” series, Barbara Park’s “Junie B Jones”, Sara Pennypacker’s “Clementine” series, and Judy Moody books. Fancy Nancy and Ladybug Girl are good for the 6-7yo range.

For Big Sized Readers: “Caddie Woodlawn”, “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, “Charlotte’s Web”, Nancy Drew series, and so many great suggestions on this list from New Moon Girls

Guide Books and Book Lists:  ” Once Upon A Heroine: 450 Books for Girls to Love” by Allison Cooper-Mullin, and “Lets Hear it for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14” by Erica Bauermeister

Do you have more family favorites? Add them in the comments section! The world is full of thousands of stories and characters to share with our daughters!

Special thanks to Casey, Danielle, Alexa, Shannon, Claire, JoAnna, Helene, Gretchen, Ljiljana, Mandy, Robyn, and Lori for helping to create this list!


  1. My daughter loves the Pippi Longstocking picture books (now) and I loved the Pippi full-length books as a child. I just bought “Pippi Goes to School” as we’re starting pre-school soon!

  2. What a great list! Lots of them we already have, but there are some I wasn’t aware of. Adding them to our wish list!

  3. Twelve Dancing Princesses??? Our Usborne version is all about being a princess.

    • Hmmm…maybe we have different books? Ours is Scholastic and is about African princesses who sneak off to go dancing every night….?

      Although, technically, that shouldn’t have made the list….I think I was thinking of a different book, and now can’t remember what it was! What title was I thinking of??

      I looked through an Usborne catalog once and was so digusted by the gender stereotypes I haven’t been back. We have good luck with Scholastic book orders through school and finding books at our independent book seller. We also do used library sales for our non-fiction books.

      • We found some great books through Usborn on Sharks and Knights and things like that, we try to stay away from some of the storybooks because they’re too gender biased. But they have a few great educational ones that link to the internet and you can go online using the book you have and look up more information while looking at the same page in your book and hear the whale sounds and things like that. We have one on the human body (that is age appropriate) and a Sharks one, a Whales and dolphins one and one on knights so far.

        We also have the 12 dancing princesses book that is about the African princesses that sneak off to dance.

  4. A few additions: A Weave of Words by Robert san Souci, Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman, Rimonah of the Flashing Sword by Eric Kimmel, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward, True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, Catherine called Birdy by Karen Cushman, Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt, Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli, Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor, just about any of Robin McKinley books…

  5. I just finished reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan with my daughter who is in 3rd grade. It was a great story about a girl who came from a wealthy family but they lost everything through a series of tragedies and she had to learn how to live without all the comforts of her former life. Very inspiring story.

  6. Such a terrific topic (and list)! Thank you so much for this. I am re-posting on my Facebook & Twitter accounts!

  7. You should check these out…

    Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter by Diane Stanley
    Master Maid by Aaron Shepard

    Just two off the top of my head that my 4 year old has really been into lately…

  8. Apart from “Millie” (unfortunately none of the other books have been translated to English, yet…) we love the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler -books, e.g. Gruffalo, the snail and the whale, where’s my Mom?, etc..

    Btw., thanks for this blog! You have no idea how helpful this is 🙂

  9. I would recommed True (. . . Sort Of) by Katherine Hannigan to parents/older elem. or younger middle schoolers because it shows how labels can affect children. Delly is a labeled as bad and starts to believe it herself. There is also counts of physical abuse and how Delly struggles with who to tell that her friend is being hurt. It would be a great book to discuss abuse with children and assure them that they can tell you anything.

  10. For preteens and teenagers, since there’s not much here for those readers, Tamora Pierce writes great heroines in all the Tortall books.

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