Princess Books for Smart, Strong Girls

“I save the kingdom. As usual.”

Though it’s not hard to find boring and/or sexist fairy tales with helpless princesses in the children’s book section, these days a parent can also find plenty of not-so-typical princess stories that teach kids about kindness, bravery, individuality and common sense. Helping others and being true to yourself, it turns out, are just as appealing to children as fancy dresses and true love’s kiss. And sometimes, when it’s done right, you can even get both in one story.

(Although, really, it’s not like my seven-year-old needs any kind of kissing in her stories. I’d rather her books be kiss-free for now, actually.)

I’ve written about books that feature smart and spunky princesses before, but I decided it was time for a second edition. Also, I’ve noticed it’s harder to find clean books about strong girls for kids like my daughter – a seven-year-old who reads chapter books well above her age level.

As I shared earlier this week, we’re not really in a frilly, pastel pink phase in our house right now. However, as I also mentioned, even if we’re not in a princess state of mind, a little glitter and a twirly dress are always fun. So, because I’ve had all that girly stuff on my mind recently, because I have two daughters who love Sofia the First and Abby Cadabby as much as Handy Manny and PAW Patrol, because Disney’s latest version of Cinderella was released this week…

I’ve found nearly 20 princess books for you and your girls that feature unusual, unexpected and not-so-typical heroines and storylines. And because I have both a very little girl and a girl who’s not so little anymore, I looked for – and found! – both picture books and chapter books.

15+ Princess Books for Smart, Strong Girls

  • Part-time Princess by Deborah Underwood: Out of all the picture books, this was by far my favorite! The quote at the beginning of the post comes from this part-time princess who is a normal girl by day and a brave, heroic, diplomatic, adventurous princess by night.
  • The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews: This is the first book of several featuring a girl who sparkles so much inside that she just knows (JUST KNOWS) she’s a princess. My favorite line from the Valentine’s Day book in the series is, “Fairy princesses are at their sparkly best making people smile.”
  • Princess Peepers by Pam Calvert: As a fellow four-eyes, I love this story! A little princess loves her glasses…until she goes to princess school and the mean princesses make fun of her. Long story short (although it’s a picture book, so the story is not actually long), she realizes in the end that wearing glasses is a great part of who she is.
  • The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane Auch: Princess Paulina’s dad gave up his kingdom to start a business, and she is tired of the peasant life. In an effort to get back to princessing, Paulina enters a Bachelorette-style contest to win the hand of a prince. Though she’s much too practical to get eliminated in early rounds, her sassy mouth gets her in trouble with the queen. Lucky for Paulina, she accidentally invents pizza, refuses the “prize” of the prince, and opens her own restaurant.
  • Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson: Neighbors to that shallow, wimpy, whiny Ella, Edna is much better. That’s the moral of this story, really. Honestly the tone is a bit rude (if you happen to have sparkly previews of the new Cinderella on the mind), but it’s funny and teaches readers to be themselves.
  • A Gold Star for Zog by Julia Donaldson: This seems like a story about dragons (which led me to consider writing a separate post about dragon books…), but it’s really the story of a princess who wants to be a doctor and not a princess. In the end, she even trains her would-be rescuer prince to be a doctor, too!

15+ Princess Books for Smart, Strong Girls

  • Princess Hyacinth : {The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated} by Florence Parry Heide: Hyacinth is a normal princess, except…she floats. This unusual book has fun typography, but also keeps Hyacinth in her royal underwear more than I liked. I mean, in public. She was in her underwear in public. So that’s weird, but it’s still a cute story.
  • Don’t Kiss the Frog! : Princess Stories with Attitude by Fiona Waters: This collection of princess stories wasn’t my favorite – and included more find-the-prince motivation than I like for my princesses, but it also featured stories about being yourself and using common sense. And I like those things.
  • Dangerously Ever After by Dashka Slater: Princess Amanita has a garden full of dangerous plants, and that suits her just fine. She likes dangerous things – until she’s lost in the woods. A strange bouquet of noses (nope, not roses) leads her to safety and, yes, a prince. It’s a quirky little story, but I like that. Weird is wonderful and all that, you know?
  • The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale: This easy chapter book is about another crime-fighting (or, at least, monster-fighting) princess who is so brave she even inspires Goat Boy to train to fight monsters, too. Very fun book!
  • Princess Joy’s Birthday Blessing (The Princess Parables) by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson: My cousin gave Annalyn one of The Princess Parables books, and we love it. This series of books is about a family of princesses (sisters) and each book tells a biblical parable about one of them. If you are looking for fun books that lead your kids back to God, this is definitely a series to add to your collection.
  • Princess Patty Meets Her Match by Charise Mericle Harper: Okay, so this IS a book about a princess looking for her prince, but this particular princess is full of common sense. And the illustrations are very cute. But when she finally meets her prince (I know. Insert eye roll here.), the books tells us that they “grew up and lived thoughtfully, generously, compassionately, and helpfully ever after.” Plus, it goes on to tell us, “the prince was a great cook.” Heh.

I also read about The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier, but I wasn’t able to check it out from the library yet. So I can’t give you a real review other than to tell you it’s described as a catalog of quirky, lesser-known princesses full of wit and beautiful illustrations. I’m looking forward to reading it with Annalyn soon!

5 Chapter Books About Princesses for Smart, Strong Girls

If your kids are a bit past the picture book phase, don’t despair! Smart princess chapter books DO exist! However, I’ll caution you to read descriptions to find the recommended reading age, as well as parent reviews. I use Common Sense Media and Shelfari for that. Several of these books are the first in a series – or the author has other similar fairy tale books. For now, Annalyn is reading The Wide-Awake Princess (a Christmas present we gave her!), but we’ll wait a year or two for the others.

Anyway, here are the chapter books for not-so-typical princesses I found!

What’s your favorite princess story or book?

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