"Princesses Behaving Badly" by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
c.2013, Quirk Books $19.95 U.S. and Canada 288 pages
There are no ugly princes in fairy tales.
The princesses are all very beautiful, too. Nobody has bad skin or bad breath, everybody wears fine clothing, and there are no Bad Hair Days in fairy tales. Kings are benevolent, even dragons and ogres are kinda cute.
But Once Upon a Time, real life wasn’t so nice for your average royal. In the new book "Princesses Behaving Badly" by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, you’ll see that everyday existence could’ve been a royal pain.
Ask a gaggle of 6-year-old girls how they dressed for Halloween and chances are that you’d be in the presence of many a little princess wanna-be. That fascination doesn’t fade, either: years after we’ve outgrown the sparkle-pink ballgown stage, some of us are still rather captivated by beautiful royalty – although princesses like Kate Middleton are, historically speaking, definite anomalies.
Take, for instance, Khutulun Khan.
Born in central Asia somewhere around 1260, Princess Khutulun was an only daughter with 14 brothers. As you might expect, this meant a bit of scrapping amongst siblings, and Khutulun grew to love wrestling. Yeah, WWE-type stuff.
"That was a problem," writes McRobbie, since Princess Khutulun vowed to remain single until she could find a man who could defeat her. (She didn’t, but she eventually married anyhow).
Princess Pingyang of China ’s Tang Dynasty was married already when her father went to war, followed by Pingyang’s brother and her husband. Rather than retreat to safety, the well-loved princess gathered her own army, which was larger than the one her father commanded. And yes, they won the war.
Then there was the "princess" who really wasn’t royalty at all: for several months, Mary Baker convinced an entire town that she was a Javasuvian princess named Caraboo. She spun a good story filled with adversity and adventure, and she did it for fun – until she was caught in her elaborate lie.
In this book, you’ll learn about a North American princess, and the "dollar princesses." You’ll read about princesses who sympathized with the Nazis and one who had a "weird habit of collecting babies." You’ll learn about a princess who became a saint, and one who chose an insane asylum instead of a husband. You’ll find out about princesses who took lovers (men and women) and three who gave up their crowns for romance.
Looking for a personal antidote to royal pink overload? "Princesses Behaving Badly" gleefully offers it – but that’s not all.
In addition to a good look at feminine tail-kicking through the ages, author Linda Rodriguez McRobbie also sneaks humor into this fun history book with snide side comments. Those laughs come when you least expect them because they’re hidden inside the stories of strong, determined women who did things that most people don’t think princesses should do.
A few of the stories in this book may be familiar to some readers but, overall, McRobbie includes a good mix that will satisfy anyone who loves tales of history and audacity. If that’s you, then "Princesses Behaving Badly" will make you happily ever after.
"Arturo and the Navidad Birds" by Anne Broyles, illustrated by KE Lewis, translation by Gust Soanish
c.2013, Pelican Publishing Company $16.99 U.S. and Canada 32 pages
Every Christmas, your family does something they do every year. It’s a tradition, and it’s never broken.
Perhaps you all go to church together before seeing what Santa brought Christmas morning. You might have a special movie you watch, music you love, or you might volunteer as a family.
Every year, Arturo and his abuela decorate their Christmas tree with special ornaments, but in the new book "Arturo and the Navidad Birds" by Anne Broyles, illustrated by KE Lewis, there was one year when the tradition was nearly shattered.
Arturo was very excited. He and his grandmother Rosa had just set up their Christmas tree and it was time for decorations. Without ornaments, it looked so sad but Abuela knew that the Christmas tree wouldn’t be empty for long.
First out of the storage box came a little walnut shell with a tiny painted mouse inside. Seeing it made Abuela Rosa smile because it reminded her of her mother, who made the ornament when Rosa was just four years old.
Next came an ornament made with beans and cardboard. It was crafted by Arturo’s mother when she was a small child.
Then there was a donkey made of wood. Abuela Rosa explained that it was there to remind them of the one who carried Mary and Joseph and their "precious cargo" to Bethlehem . Arturo hung that ornament up high on the tree.
Every item had a story, and Arturo listened closely as he and his abuela decorated the tree. Then he found a glass bird that he didn’t recognize – but when he played with it, it broke into many pieces. Arturo’s heart did, too.
How would he tell Abuela Rosa that her favorite ornament was broken? Quietly, he thought perhaps he could fix the bird, but he couldn’t. He figured he might make a replacement, but it wasn’t as beautiful as glass.
With tears in his eyes, Arturo took the whole mess to his abuela, certain that she’d be sad. He’d ruined the gift her friend had given her – but then he received a gift that was worth much, much more.
There are a lot of reasons to love "Arturo and the Navidad Birds."
First of all, it’s fun to look at. The illustrations by KE Lewis are really cute. The facial expressions on the characters are perfect and the pictures are detailed with soft brownish tones to give the book a warm feel of nostalgia.
Secondly, the story inside is one that kids will understand totally. What child hasn’t accidentally broken something he knows is precious, and regretted it? Author Anne Broyles brings that, and the holiday spirit, together here. She also makes it easy to enjoy, no matter who your young audience is because this book is written in both Spanish and English.
The smallest children may sit still for this book once or twice, but I think kids ages 4 to 8 will like it best. So grab "Arturo and the Navidad Birds," give it a start, and see who doesn’t crack a smile.
(The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.)