The Worst Princess: Anna Kemp & Sara Ogilvie
September 11, 2014
Book: The Worst Princess (iBooks link)
Author: Anna Kemp
Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie
Age Range: 3-8
The Worst Princess, by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, is an antidote to tales of conventional Disney-fied princesses who sit around and wait to be rescued. Well, Princess Sue does initially sit trapped in a tower, waiting to be rescued. She is utterly bored, and is thrilled when a prince finally comes to set her free. But then she is chagrined when the prince expects her to spend her time trapped (for safety) in a penthouse tower of his own castle. At this point, however, the princess rebels, and establishes a mutually beneficial alliance with a fire-breathing dragon. The prince (a "twit") ends up with a demolished castle and burned underwear.
By keeping the story humorous, Kemp avoids making The Worst Princess feel didactic. She uses rhyming couplets that are generally pretty conventional, but sometimes surprise (like "awed" and "sword"). Here are a couple of examples to give you a feel for the text:
"Princess Sue! That's quite enough!"
The prince was back, and in a huff.
"Where's your tower? Just look at your dress!
You really are the worst princess."
"Also, Susan, beg your pardon,
why's there a dragon in my garden?"
The Worst Princess is a quick, bouncy read-aloud.
Sara Ogilvie's bright illustrations lend an appropriately unconventional air to the book. When she is rescued, Princess Sue is wearing yellow high-tops, while the snooty prince wears high-heeled boots. As Princess Sue grabs him and kisses him upon her rescue, his face turns a pink that matches the large feather atop his armor. The red and orange dragon looks friendly, and Princess Sue is at her best looking disheveled. (She bears a passing resemblance to Pippi Longstocking, actually.)
As the mother of a daughter, I appreciate the message of this story (Rescue yourself! don't be conventional!). But I must confess that my four-year-old was less than wowed. Perhaps she has seen too many conventional Disney princesses to accept this one. She just didn't get it. But I say, all the more reason that we should keep The Worst Princess on our shelf. The Worst Princess is a title that I think libraries should stock, and display prominently, as an antidote to more passive princess depictions. Kemp's rhyming text and Ogilvie's quirky pictures make it a fun read for home or school. Recommended.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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