Does gender matter when deciding what books your children should be reading? Well, I happen to think not, a book is just book with a story that interests the reader or not, no matter what gender they are.
Pirates, dragons, space adventures, princesses, fairies and unicorns – they all feature in children’s books and kids love them. But have you noticed that books with themes of pirates, dragons and space adventures tend to be geared towards boys and are packed with exciting thrilling adventures (and feature a lot of blue), whilst books featuring princesses (who sit around waiting for their Prince Charming), fairies and unicorns are geared towards girls and feature a lot of pink? I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but guess what, BOYS and GIRLS like pink as well as blue and kids just love a good story regardless of the theme – before biased gender-stereotyping and society dictate what is acceptable reading for boys and girls (and it doesn’t just happen with books), pushing them towards gender specific stereotypical roles. Books should just be pages of stories that readers of any gender can pick up and read, we should not be sending toddlers and young children down pre-determined gender paths like blue is for boys, pink is for girls, that football is just for boys (just take a look at Lily Parr who scored over 1000 goals in her career, and of course the England Women’s football team in the Women’s Euro 2022) and that female characters need a male character to help or rescue them.
Young children learn a lot from reading books and picking up a book with a main character that is similar to the that of the reader encourages children to read, so why do lots of picture books feature mostly white male characters? And why in books where a princess is involved does the female character have to sit around waiting to rescued by a prince or another male hero? Well, in Princesses Break Free, written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Jenny Løvlie, that is all about to change in a really cool, exciting, fun and thrilling adventure which changes the rules as well as reinforcing positive representation.
In Princesses Break Free, it starts the way most princess fairy tales go. When the princesses are carried off by evil dragons, eating poisoned apples or locked up in a tower, they wait for the prince to rescue them and live happily ever after. But Princess Tilly, the heroine of the story, finds those stories all rather boring – why should the princesses sit around waiting for someone to help them out when they are quite capable themselves. Princess Tilly is certainly no damsel in distress! She doesn’t have time to sit around waiting for someone to help her – when captured by a dragon, she rescued herself. When put in prison by her fairy godmother, she rescued herself. And when another princess is locked in a tower awaiting her prince, Princess Tilly gets her to take control and rescue herself. By taking charge of her own life and destiny and helping other princesses do the same, the dragons, evil queens and even the princes all have nothing to do and use their newfound freedom to try other things and do what they want to do rather than what is expected of them and really start to enjoy themselves.
Overall, this is an excellent modern fairy tale that really has been twisted and updated for the twenty-first century. Packed with humour, adventure and positive messages it is the perfect story for children to be reading and learning from.
Children (and their adult reading partners) reading Princesses Break Free will read about a young girl breaking stereotypes, doing things for herself and being in control of her own life – doing what she wants to do without barriers, whether that’s escaping dragons with a pair of giant knickers, leaping from towers, scaling mountains and exploring jungles or even having mushy pie fights. This book introduces readers to Princess Tilly – a strong, defiant and confident young girl that is not going to let anyone control her life and she will be the one to take control of her own destiny whilst inspiring others to do the same.
Princesses Break Free is a humorous adventure story with lots of energy, teaching young readers that girls don’t have to rely on others for help – they are perfectly capable themselves. An inspirational book that encourages motivation, self-awareness and not to let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because of gender of differences.
To help tell this really engaging and motivating book are some brilliant and colourful illustrations, without overusing the colour pink, by Jenny Løvlie that help bring Timothy Knapman’s words to life and help visualise the tale and the humour of a strong and adventurous character.
Whilst Princess Tilly might find generic fairy tales boring, she breaks the mould and Princess Break Free is anything but. Inspirational, motivating and lots of fun! A book with an excellent message for your own little princesses … and princes.
Definitely an easy 5* book for children for the story and the messages that it delivers where young readers will be able to take lots of very positive inspiration from. It challenges stereotypes in a really positive way with a strong female role model and an excellent way of introducing the topic of gender equality and being your own person to young readers.
RRP: £12.99 (Hardback) / £7.99 (Paperback)