“Princesses” – The Book’s Eye View From Vermont: Just because we wear clogs and flannel shirts doesn’t mean that we’re not interested in royal wedding dresses being worn across the pond! Both Lisas watched from a clapboard house on a dirt road as William and Kate tied the knot in Westminster Abbey and then kissed at Buckingham Palace. These are the books that then came to mind.
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The recent royal nuptials (what a fun phrase to write and say – royal nuptials – try it), got us thinking about life as a royal personage. And we started to think, as we tend to do, about books to help us empathize/fantasize about royalty. Our conclusion? — even with the best books, there is no way to truly relate to the royal treatment other than to actually be in a royal family.
So we decided to focus on a former commoner like us – the newly crowned Princess Kate. Then we turned to stories about princesses. And once we started along this line of thought, the titles kept on coming. We edited a bit, and the books we dicussed on the BookJam podcast are:
Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch In this classic picture book, Princess Elizabeth wears fancy clothes and is to marry Prince Ronald. Then a dragon abducts Ronald. So she dons a paper bag, tracks and tricks the dragon, and rescues Prince Ronald. When Ronald says “You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess,” well let’s say they do not live happily ever after. But she does save the prince.
The Light Princess by George Macdonald – a tale from the 19th century – really. We surmise that Gail Carson Levine read it somewhere along the way (see next entry). The Light Princess is a simple tale, written for children. A princess is cursed by a wicked witch with lightness and thus is condemed to float blissfully about the castle all day long, missing gravity, weight, sorrow, suffering and love. The tale relates how she finds her own gravity — and how she saves the prince, too.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – This Newberry Honor Award winner has a cursed princess too. At birth, Ella is given the gift of obedience by a fairy named Lucinda. Thus, anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. As with many fairy tales her mother dies, her father remarries a wicked woman and her life is not so great. But Ella decides to solver her problems herself. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this version of Cinderella sticks with you with twists and deviations from the original.
The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine- As in Ella Enchanted, Carson Levine turns fairy tales upside down and inside out. We enjoyed her versions of a sleeping beauty who wakes covered in dirt and cobwebs and a Rapunzel who chooses her own entrapment.
Other titles of interest that we mention on the podcast include:
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman – Takes all the elements of a classic fairy tale and up ends them a bit. This is a great book that also made an excellent movie.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot – Mia Thermopolis, your average urban ninth grader, discovers her father is prince of a small country and that she is now considered the crown princess! She doesn’t even know how to begin to cope, but we enjoy watching her try. (Good movie as well.)
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – Sisterly rivalry drives this vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn.
And since most of this podcast focussed on books that are often downright silly, we end with a more serious recommendation – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel provides a fantastic well written look at life in the court of King Henry the VIII.
Musical selections to bookend this podcast include Margaret Whitman’s original recording of “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Dig a Little Deeper” performed by Jenifer Lewis (Mama Odie).