Review – I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess

OK, the child is back at school. It’s still primary school but we’re at the senior end now – the business end. No more coaxing along or mincing words.

Fortunately she still adores being read to, so every day we still share glorious minutes together in worlds garnished extravagantly with pictures. Yes, I am a staunch believer of there being no age limit for the enjoyment of picture books.

However the scope and theme of picture books that excite a mid-primary schooler are vastly different from those suitable for 0 – 5 year olds. I don’t often come across those types these days so discovering this little cutie is a real treasure.

Pretty Princess 2I admit I’m a bit of a Heath McKenzie fan. His illustrations are fairy floss for one’s eyes; sweet, adorable and dangerously moreish. I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess is the second picture book McKenzie has both written and illustrated and from the impossibly pink, love-heart festooned cover to the cuter than cute twist at the end, it exudes palace-loads of playful wit and charm.

6b416c0c0eef3ae8-PrettyPrincess04-05Our brown-eyed heroine wants to be a princess more than anything else in the world. Who doesn’t when they’re three-something?

Her dreams and imaginings overlay her everydayness as show by McKenzie’s clever pencilled outline illustrations.

Her wishes are soon answered by none other than a real-life pretty princess, who immediately embarks on the transformation of our heroine, aka, pretty princess wanna-be.

In a somewhat Pygmalion fashion, the haughty real princess pulls, primps and perfects Miss Wanna-be into a bonsai version of, well, herself.

b3b995b5165e4bee-PrettyPrincess12-13But what is the point of wearing so much make-up just to look perfectly ordinary? What is the point of pretty dresses if you cannot frolic and flounce about in them? What fun is a tea party if you cannot enjoy feasting with your friends? And shouldn’t you be allowed to dance like no one’s watching at all times?

Our little princess wanna-be also discovers handsome princes are not all they are cracked up to be so re-writes her own list of rules for being a pretty princess.

Heath McKenzie 2What I wanna know is how McKenzie taps so succinctly into the female pre-schoolers’ psyche. He draws and writes ‘little girl’ with blinding accuracy and has created a narrative that smacks with comical imperialistic overtones. Perhaps he has secret pretty princess yearnings too.

I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess is a slightly precocious, very pink, fabulously frothy, floaty picture book that any self-respecting young 3 year old (girl especially) will simply fawn over.

Perfect for sharing with pre-schoolers and those who really do want to know what it takes to be a princess.

You can find out first here.

Scholastic Press February 2014

 

The Problem with Pink

Remember a couple of years back, when pink shirts became mainstream for blokes? It was a fashion revolution. Mainly because previous to that fateful day (when the Aussie ocker braved his mate’s bbq and they didn’t beat him to a pulp on sight), pink shirts were the avenue of metrosexuals and guys who didn’t know to separate the colours from the whites in the wash cycle (“it’s red, I tell you”)…

As this isn’t a fashion blog, I won’t be detailing the rise and fall of the empire of Pink Shirt.

Mainly because with the exception of the black, red and white that currently frequents every paranormal series, most covers in the book world seem to be on pretty even rotation through the ages. Or are they? There’s a whole lot of hullabaloo going on at the moment in certain literary media circles, stemming from this article. Apparently, pink book covers are a little too sweet to the stomach for some. I felt a little affronted when I first read the article…like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, pink is one of my favourite things. It’s the colour of romance and cotton candy; if your kids aren’t eating their vegetables then your best bet is to paint the kitchen pink; and pink is the perfect deterrent for car thieves.

But also, in the book world at least, pink is the safe haven for petticoated Chick Lit, Mills and Boon-style romances and domestic YA fiction for girls.

It seems (as much as I hate to admit it) that the problem with pink is that it’s too brash for the bookshelf, too unreasonable when prose is wanting to be serious, too gender-specific when publishers want to appeal to both sides of the audience.

Looking to my own shelves, even though I love the colour pink and am shamelessly drawn to cover art I don’t have much on the pink shelf.

Yes I colour-code my bookshelves. And yes, one of the books is named Princess Academy. But there’s also a David Mitchell and a veritable feast of books with middle-eastern characters.

And, one of the books is also The Best Australian Essays 2008. But when I search it online? The cover comes up as a no-holds-barred royal purple. Mine on the bookshelf is at least a magenta in the flesh. Harrumph. But seriously, does it really matter what colour a book is?

I guess, yes. I don’t like Chick Lit in the slightest as a genre, and (with the exception of Lili Wilkinson’s Pink)  pink YA covers make me think they’re trying to “femme up” the cover because the writing doesn’t speak for itself.

So I’m throwing it out there if you’ve got a possible answer for me: is pink itself superficial? Can it ever be taken seriously?

 Or am I being superficial by judging it prematurely?