Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Children's Book Review - A Beautiful Princess

So my extracurricular reading has been entirely reduced to internet news sites, blogs and children's books.  My 19-month-old daughter has a large bucket of books in the living room.  Mom and Dad have to read nearly all of them at least 10 times daily.  This is her favorite activity.  While it drives me nuts and on many occasions I try to distract her with ANY other activity, I have a hard time discouraging it.  Admittedly, I hide certain books because I'm tired of them and she also tends to tear specific books up with regularity.  (The Your Baby Can Read flip books have more scotch tape per book than 2 years worth of Christmas Presents)

I once thought it would be great to write books for children.  I mean, seriously, they are super simple.  And frankly my ability, er lack thereof, to flesh out a story into a full novel has proven to be ineffective.  But I'm realizing that unless you're already famous (i.e. Madonna) your chances of making it to publication is slim.  A few exceptions exist, but it seems most children's books are published and created greeting card style.  Yes there is an author, but they're not really the famous one.  The publisher or line of books is what you're purchasing.

So fine, very simplistic, appeal to children with color and texture, very little thought.  Every once and a while, I run across one that is just BAD!  I've already lowered my expectations, but sometimes the publisher's standards just take a nose dive.  Many books that are kiddified versions of normal stories are the worst.  (i.e. The Ugly Duckling, Noah's Ark, Goldilocks & the Three Bears)  They've stripped the story down to the basic essentials.  Some times to the point that it becomes a horrendous caricature of itself.  

My Mother gave us a TON of books and I'm so grateful for them.  Frankly, this crap gets expensive quickly.  Especially at the rate kids plow through toys and "reading material."  The book, A Beautiful Princess from the Princess Glitter line published by Paradise Press, is one Mom got from a thrift store or church garage sale or something similar.  Alright, obviously it's the glitter (as the back cover states) that is the main appeal, not the plot.  So I shouldn't really hold it against the classic works of children's literature from yesteryear.  Alas, what I'm reading is the plot.  It's hard to separate the two.  So my biggest critique on this book is the underlying message it is putting out to the world and more importantly, my daughter. 

Basic gist is that Princess Isabel is gorgeous and she and everyone knows it.  She goes to a ball.  Because everyone is intimidated by her extreme beauty, no one will ask her to dance.  A prince from a foreign land is the only one with the cojones to ask her.  She's of course taken by him and dances.  He tells her that because she is beautiful he can see that she's also a good person inside.  (yes you read that right)  They danced all night and hope to do it more in the future. (amazingly, happily ever after was even a stretch for this book)

So lemme get this straight, the premise of the story is pity the pretty princess for she carries a HUGE burden of beauty?  Cosmo or Matel at the very least has to have a hand in this. The only person at the ball who can see past the beauty and find SOMETHING appealing isn't even from the same country?  Isn't beauty between cultures typically skewed?  So should I read into this that men only seek ugly girls and the foreigner obviously thinks the princess is REALLY ugly, right?  And the moral of the story is that inner beauty only shines through if your external beauty is blinding?  Oh and commitment is only for many dances in the future, not marriage and children.  Well I guess that's a better approach in the long run.  Girls don't need to be deluded by love at first sight and happily ever after any way.  Shesh, the publishers were already so shallow, why not go in for the kill?

So why not do the logical thing and just get rid of the book?  Because she's too young to understand the concepts just yet.  Also it's one of her favorites cause it's pretty and she calls all the girls mommy and all the boys daddy.  Kinda cute, so it'll have a few more months of life.

Here's the book with my color commentary.  I apologize that my scanner left little lines on the pages, no joke that piece of equipment is 12 years old. You can click the images to enlarge them.


  1. Lamest. Ball. Ever.

    Okay, this was a really funny post, but there actually is a lesson in here, too. I mean, if this kind of stuff gets published, no writer should ever get discouraged!

    You know, I once had drafted a scene wherein a conceited, "all looks, no brain" type lamented how difficult it was to be hot. Of course, I was writing it in irony, which doesn't seem to be the case in "A Beautiful Princess."

  2. Thanks John. Wasn't it the lamest though? I have to apologize though. My wife read my post and pointed out that I left out a page of the book. It's the one where the "all looks, no brain" type was saddened with the realization that beauty is something no one desires.

    I completely agree that if this droll can reach publication, any decent author can find light at the end of the tunnel.

    I think people like Nancy Parent are the writing equivalent to Soap Opera side characters. Ever working, never top billed. I guess if you just need to get that proverbial foot in the door or just make a pay check it'll do.