by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
I grew up in another era of powerful feminism.
As young preteens, we were encouraged—by these women and other prominent figures—to challenge the status quo, aspire to lots of different roles, and pursue whatever careers we could imagine.
But I am pretty sure being a princess was not one of them.
I didn’t have anything against princesses, but—other than The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (which I discovered through my own elementary school Scholastic book orders, and also read and loved in its novella format, Sara Crewe)—I just never thought too much about them.
In my middle school version of reality in the 1970s, princesses were symbols of outdated femininity. They were, to us young feminists, beautiful, too girly, and not focused on college, career, or changing the world for the better—which is what we all were trying to do.
The pop-culture women of my childhood didn't bear any resemblance to princesses either.
Obviously, we didn’t have a royal family in the United States, so I had no real-life frame of reference for who a princess was or what she did all day.
Instead of Buckingham Palace and the royal family, we had the White House, LBJ, and Richard Nixon.
Years later, when I was working in book publishing, I came a little closer to real princess life at a publishing party at the Plaza Hotel. We were celebrating Sarah, aka “Fergie,” the Duchess of York, who launched the Budgie the Little Helicopter book series in 1989.
Through the years, I had some other passing curiosity with assorted princesses. When she was in the news, I loved hearing about Princess Diana and sympathized with her struggles against the stifling royal family.
Like me, my daughter, Rebecca, seemed to have only a glancing interest in princesses. She did dress up one year as a princess for Halloween.
And her great friend, Liza—who is now a brilliant social worker in New York City—wore a tiara alongside her back in the day.
It turns out Liza’s path from princess to social worker is a common pattern for princesses around the world. Real-life princesses have done incredible community and social service work.
In the ’90s, Princess Diana was an advocate for many causes. Notably, she worked to change the world’s perception of HIV, AIDS, leprosy, homelessness, nursing, refugee crises, and more. In every case, she went straight to the front lines and interacted personally with those most directly affected. Often, she crossed boundaries to bring awareness to issues, like shaking hands with a leprosy patient to highlight that the disease doesn’t spread through contact and walking through an active land-mine field in Angola to emphasize the extreme conditions so many people live with every day.
Now, in 2018, Diana’s would-be daughter-in-law, Duchess Meghan Markle, is fighting for women’s rights and social justice on a global scale. She is considered by many (like Time and Vogue magazines) to be among the most influential people in the world today.
Even in the wonderful world of Disney, where many young children get their initial impressions of princess life, there are powerful role models:
As a publisher for the past three decades, I have come to appreciate the power of a good princess in children’s books. We love Princess Truly in I Am Truly, The Princess and the Pony, and The Paper Bag Princess, just to name a few!
So we are happy this week to feature a new powerful princess character for our Dollar Deal: The Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrated by the award-winning LeUyen Pham.
In this easy-to-read chapter book filled with engaging vocabulary and vibrant illustrations, Princess Magnolia is a sweet, gentle princess by day…and the monster-fighting Princess in Black by night!
“Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
It turns out that while my royally amazing friend and colleague David Vozar never thought about living in a castle himself, reading The Princess in Black sparked the creation of his own fairy-tale-like alter ego:
“Inspired by The Princess in Black, I began to think about what my alter ego would be.
“I think that most people in the office would be most surprised at the almost-maniacal attention that I pay to the upkeep of my lawn. Early every Saturday morning, I go out to the garage and begin my weekly ritual of maintaining this expanse of green around my home.
“So in honor of Princess Magnolia, I pronounce myself ‘Count Lawn Guy!’”
The Scholastic Book Clubs team was eager to jump into the action with The Princess in Black! The Book Boys pitch some wacky new book ideas to authors Shannon and Dean Hale in person; three young readers challenge the thinking that The Princess in Black is only for girls in Book Talks; LeUyen Pham answers some royally fascinating questions in Behind the Scenes; and we show you how your students can create their own superhero masks in Cooked Up from a Book!
I hope you and your students enjoy reading The Princess in Black—and that you meet a powerful princess role model along the way.
The Princess in Black: Text copyright © by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by LeUyen Pham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs