The Redefine Princessy Book List

The Original Pigtail Pal

As we say at Pigtail Pals, there are so many ways to be a girl. I happen to have an adventure and science loving little gal who also adores art and playing with make up. Sometimes she puts the make up on her face (or the dog), other times she turns the bathroom into a science lab. She doesn’t carry a purse or a wand, she has an adventure pack stuffed with binoculars, a compass, an Angry Birds ring, and a pack of Bubbalicious. Her daily uniform is a skirt, shirt, and tights that don’t match the rest of her outfit. And sparkle shoes, always her sparkle shoes.

She’s all girl.
Amelia has never been into Disney Princesses, but we have a couple of books about princesses that she really enjoys. We are both counting the days until we can go see the new Pixar movie “Brave”, about a Scottish princess/archer named Merida who takes her fate into her own hands. I wanted to share the princess tales we’ve enjoyed, and some others suggested by the Pigtail Pals Facebook Community.
Just like there are many ways to be a girl, I’d like for people to start thinking about the possibility of there being many different ways to be a princess.
Here’s a list of great books that redefine the role of princess, widen horizons, and focus on some really nice messages for our girls to learn. They’re all Pigtail Pals approved for teaching girls they are smart, daring, and adventurous!
For Little Readers, (ages 2-6 years old):
“Princess Peepers” by Pam Calvert
This glasses-wearing princess is teased for wearing glasses, until she changes the rules for cool.
“Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?”, “Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs?”, “Do Princesses Scrape Their Knees?” by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, Mike Gorden, and Carl Gordon
This trio of books will help little ones see there are many different ways to be a girl (and princess). Good for the girl who might need a little Princess Recovery. Also good for showing family interaction.
“My Princess Boy” by Cheryl Kilodavis
A beautiful story about a boy named Dyson who loves pink and climbing trees. Good for showing little kids that colors are for everyone.
“Not All Princesses Wear Pink”  by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Some wear bright red socks that stink. With images that show girls doing all kinds of redefine girly things. Good for expanding horizons for a princess lover.
“Waking Beauty” and “Falling for Rapunzel” by Leah Wilcox
Upside down, backwards, and laugh-out-loud takes on some classics. Both stories do a good job of showing imperfect princesses.
“Princess Pigsty” by Cornelia Funke
Princess Isabella is thrilled to be sent to the pigsty by her father as punishment for tossing out her crown and announcing being a princess is boring.
“Pirate Girl” by Cornelia Funke
Okay techinically she isn’t a princess, but this is a great tale. Molly is a most uncooperative captive for the pirates, and is rescued by her mom. Aaargh!
“The Princess Knight” by Cornelia Funke
The princess is fed up and disguises herself as a boy to show the kingdom just what it is that girls are capable of.
“The Queen’s Feet” by Sarah Ellis
The queen just can’t seem to get her feet to behave. A good story for wiggly girls with restless toes.
For Medium Readers, (ages 7 years old and up):
“The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch
Probably THE book for redefining princess, our heroine finds the dragon, rescues the prince, determines her own fate…and does it while wearing a paper bag. 
“Cinder Edna” by Ellen Jackson
The story of the self-reliant and spunky neighbor of Cinderella who creates her own happy ever after.
“The Thinking Girls Treasury of Real Princesses” by Shirin Yim Bridges
These stories of princesses from different culture carry a girl empowerment tone as the reader learns about girls who changed their lives and their worlds.
“Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure” by Robert San Souci
Our heroine decides to sail the world, and battles sea serpents and giants and discoveres she is as brave as any man.
“King and King” by Linda de Haan
A fairy tale that has the prince agreeing to marry…another prince. This story supports diversity in how a family can come to be and accepting the people we love for who they are.
“The Knight Who Took All Day” by James Mayhew
When the high maintenance knight takes too long getting ready to battle the dragon, the golden-haired princess gets up and does it herself.
“Girls To The Rescue” series by Bruce Lansky
A group of stories that show the girls taking charge and saving the day.
For Big Readers, (ages 10 years old and up):
“The Secret Lives of Princesses” by Phillippe Lechermeier and Rebecca Dautremer
A collection of tales that introduces a new group of unique royal daughters with gorgeous illustrations.
‘The Great Good Thing” by Roderick Townley
The heroic princess in this tale is looking for more adventure, and refuses to get married before she accomplishes one Great Good Thing. And then she breaks all the rules, and looks the reader right in the eye…..
“The Enchanted Forest Chronicles” by Patricia Wade (for teens)
A collection of adventure stories about Princess Cimorene, who refuses to be proper.
“Thinking Girls Treasury of Dastardly Dames” by Shirin Yim Bridges (for teens)
A series of historical tales of women rulers through the ages who did whatever was necessary to get to the top and stay in power.
And more…… 


  1. The Well at The End of the World, is an all time favorite with my kids..and me.

  2. What a great list! Thanks for sharing.

    And my girls are antsy for Brave to open, too.

  3. Hi from Germany! I’ve been reading your thought-provoking articles and enjoy them very much. Your list of different princess books reminds me of one that I read some years ago: “The Ordinary Princess”, by M. M. Kaye. Looks like it’s still available – may be worth looking into.

    Thanks for your excellent posts!

  4. Oh you missed so many!

    My current favorite: The Princess Academy. It is so different, has such a different “flavor” than the usual fairy tale. (And should have won the Newberry Award – boo!)

    Also anything by Robin McKinley – The Hero and the Crown, Spindle’s End, the Door in the Hedge are all about princesses. But all her books are great.

    So is Deerskin, but only for MUCH older readers as it goes over the tale of the father that went insane and wanted to marry his own daughter as the only one that could match his dead wife’s beauty. And goes over what that really means – incestuous rape and how she survives. The first few chapters are SO hard to read but its a great book.

  5. “The Ordinary Princess” was a favorite story of mine as a medium reader. The youngest princess has freckles and would rather hang out with the kitchen staff than do boring princess stuff. Thank you for this list, I’m checking into all of these!

  6. thank you, melissa. i’ll look forward to sharing these with my kiddos.

    we do have “paper bag princess” – though i re-wrote the ending and glued my version over the original. i didn’t like that it made the boy character look like such a jerk. this book was written in 1980 and the voice of feminism has matured through time. also, the men’s movement finally got some traction in the early 90’s. i don’t want my kids to think that girls are powerful at the expense of boys. everyone gets to be powerful, magnificent, helpful. sometimes the princess helps the prince and sometimes the prince helps the princess. i suspect you’re into this groove of thinking with me. just wanted to share my thoughts.

    my hubby and i will be doing a puppet show of “paper bag princess” for my son’s pre-school in the next few weeks. the kids have a medieval-themed play area this spring and we’re working to detox the girls from disney-intery. 🙂

    • Sarah –
      Disney Detox….I like it! I don’t really like the ending of Paperbag Princess, either, for the same reasons you mentioned. Girl empowerment is not about putting boys down. It is about building everyone up.

  7. Another pair of books that I discovered accidently are “The Runaway Princess” and “The Runaway Dragon” by Kate Coombs. I haven’t read the former, having discovered the latter when R was specifically in a dragon stage, but they feature a young princess who definitely doesn’t want to fit into the traditional role who rescues a dragon.

  8. Emily Brown!
    A fantastic heroine. She goes on so many adventures! Rescues elephants, stands up to a princess and her army, isn’t scared of noises in the night and braves the strange and whirling wastes to fetch milk for a scared monster. and is a general all round A1 role-model. Not a princess technically but really really worth a read. Our favourite. 2+.

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