Non-Traditional Princess Stories

Princess stories are a perennial favorite among girls of all ages and stories of royalty in general play a large role throughout children’s literature. Sometimes though it’s nice to take a break from the frilly frothy princesses and read about royalty that may not quite fit the traditional fairy tale princess role. The books below all feature princesses (and some princes) that are intelligent, brave, and independent and will remind children that there‚Äôs more to being royal than dressing up!

When searching in the catalog for non-traditional princess books you can try using the subject heading “sex role” and the keyword “juvenile” as well to limit to children’s books. Adding “princess” as another keyword will limit the search further to just those children’s books that feature princesses. However, books about non-traditional princesses can be hard to find in the library catalog because it is a very specific facet of a story that will not necessarily be identified as a subject when the record is created. There is not a subject heading in the catalog that perfectly matches the concept of a non-traditional princess. A great resource for searching for this kind of concept isNovelist, which can be accessed for free through the UIUC Library “Online Journals & Databases” search on-campus or off-campus with a valid NetID. This database provides lists of read-alikes for most titles and even has subject headings such as “nonsexist children’s literature” and “feminist fairy tales” both of which are good subjects to consider for non-traditional princess stories. Looking for a classic of this genre such asPrincess Smartypants or The Paper Bag Princess and then looking through the read-alikes list is a great way to find similar titles.

Picture Books

Cole, Babette.
Prince Cinders. 1988.
A fairy grants a small, skinny prince a change in appearance and the chance to go to the Palace Disco.
[Center for Children’s Books S.398.2C6742p1988]

Cole, Babette.
Princess Smartypants. 1987.
Not wishing to marry any of her royal suitors, Princess Smartypants devises difficult tasks at which they all fail, until the multitalented Prince Swashbuckle appears.
[Education Storage SE. C6742PS1987, Center for Children’s Books SE. C6742PS1987]

Funke, Cornelia.
The Princess Knight. 2001.
Violet is a young princess who wishes she could show the world that she is just as brave and strong as her brothers. But her strict father insists that she get married, and her brothers only mock her when she wants to be included in their fun. So Violet decides to use her intelligence and bravery to show everyone–once and for all–what she’s made of. Disguising herself as a boy, Violet takes part in a knights’ jousting tournament. When she wins the contest, she reveals her true identity–and wins the prize of freedom!
[Education S Collection Q. S. F964p, Center for Children’s Books Q. S. F964p]

Gow, Nancy.
Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose. 2010.
A lovely princess with enormous feet and a charming prince with a huge nose meet on a ski lift and, while their flaws are hidden, fall in love.
[Education S Collection SE. G7474t]

Lechermeier, Philippe.
The Secret Lives of Princesses. 2010.
Exposes the hidden lives of such lesser-known figures as Princess Molly Coddle, Princess Miss Hap, and Princess Anne Phibian, revealing where they live, what they whisper about, and what sorts of pets they own.
[Education S Collection Q. S. L4952p:E]

Munsch, Robert N.
Paper Bag Princess. 1983.
The Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald. In resourceful and humorous fashion, Elizabeth finds the dragon, outsmarts him, and rescues Ronald — who is less than pleased at her un-princess-like appearance.
[Education S Collection SE. M927p, Center for Children’s Books SE. M927p]

Quindlen, Anna.
Happily Ever After. 1997.
When a girl who loves to read fairy tales is transported back to medieval times, she finds that the life of a princess in a castle is less fun than she imagined.
[Education Oak St Facility S. Q. 43h]

Waters, Fiona.
Don’t Kiss the Frog. 2008.
Perfect for girls who love tiaras, ballgowns, and happy endings – but also sports, silly jokes, and being different. Featuring the work of seven writers and three illustrators, this anthology of “princess stories with attitude” will make kids laugh as they encounter a bevy of sleepy, sporty, clumsy, brave, resourceful, and curious princesses.
[Education S Collection Q. S. D7198]

Intermediate Fiction

Baker, E. D.
The Frog Princess. 2002.
After reluctantly kissing a frog, an awkward, fourteen-year-old princess suddenly finds herself a frog, too, and sets off with the prince to seek the means — and the self-confidence — to become human again.
[Education Storage S. B172f]

Healy, Christopher.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. 2012.
Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes–a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.
[Center for Children’s Books S. H3498h]

Kaye. M. M.
The Ordinary Princess. 1984.
At her christening, a princess is given the gift of “ordinariness” by a fairy, and the consequences of that eventually take her to a nearby palace where, as the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid, she meets the prince for her.
[Education Oak St Facility S. K182O, Center for Children’s Books S. K182O, Education Storage S. K182o 2002]

Paterson, Katherine.
The King’s Equal. 1992.
In order to wear the crown of the kingdom, an arrogant young prince must find an equal in his bride. Instead, he finds someone far better than he.
[Education Storage SE. P2732K, Center for Children’s Books SE. P2732K]

Yolen, Jane.
Dealing With Dragons. 1990.
Bored with traditional palace life, a princess goes off to live with a group of dragons and soon becomes involved with fighting against some disreputable wizards who want to steal away the dragons’ kingdom.
[Education Storage S.W925D, Oak Street Facility Fiction W925de1992, Uni High Fiction W925de1990]

Young Adult Fiction

Barrett, Tracy.
Anna of Byzantium. 1999.
In the eleventh century the teenage princess Anna Comnena fights for her birthright, the throne to the Byzantine Empire, which she fears will be taken from her by her younger brother John because he is a boy.
[Education Storage S. B2756a, Center for Children’s Books S. B2756a]

Carson, Rae.
Girl of Fire and Thorns. 2011.
A fearful sixteen-year-old princess discovers her heroic destiny after being married off to the king of a neighboring country in turmoil and pursued by enemies seething with dark magic.
[Center for Children’s Books S. C2395g, Uni High Fiction C239g]

Coombs, Kate.
Runaway Princess. 2006.
Fifteen-year-old Princess Meg uses magic and her wits to rescue a baby dragon and escape the unwanted attentions of princes hoping to gain her hand in marriage through a contest arranged by her father, the king.
[Education Storage S. C781r]

Friesner, Esther.
Nobody’s Princess. 2007.
Determined to fend for herself in a world where only men have real freedom, headstrong Helen, who will be called queen of Sparta and Helen of Troy one day, learns to fight, hunt, and ride horses while disguised as a boy, and goes on an adventure throughout the Mediterranean world.
[Education Storage S. F915n, Center for Children’s Books S. F915n]

Haddix, Margaret Peterson.
Just Ella. 1999.
In this continuation of the Cinderella story, fifteen-year-old Ella finds that accepting Prince Charming’s proposal ensnares her in a suffocating tangle of palace rules and royal etiquette, so she plots to escape.
[Education S Collection S. H1172j]

Prepared by:
Anna Logan
Graduate Student
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign