At what point will we say, “Enough already with the princess stuff!”? Hardly a day goes by that I do not open a box that litters pink sprinkles on the floor. Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple’s Not All Princesses Dress in Pink (2010), illustrated by Sophie Lanquetin, is a rare and salutary antidote, but it is one against many. I was not at all surprised, therefore, when I unpacked My Little Pink Princess Purse, by Stephen T. Johnson.
After all, why wouldn’t the creator of 2009’s My Little Red Fire Truck provide a distaff companion to his testosterone-fueled orgy of mechanical bliss? Kirkus loved My Little Red Fire Truck: “For truck-mad children, this book is a dream come true—they’ll want to spend far more than just three minutes under the hood checking the fluid levels, and when they put it in gear, watch out!”
So even though I have developed a knee-jerk and entirely justifiable hatred of pink-princess books, I was cautiously optimistic. Last year’s interactive fire-engine book was just so doggone cool—readers can bash the fire bell with a removable mallet, for crying out loud—I was kind of psyched to open My Little Pink Princess Purse.
Oh, was that optimism ever misplaced. Because, really, what can one do with a purse? One can’t put the key in the ignition or check the fluid levels; all one can do is put stuff in and take stuff out. And that is just about all readers can do with this book.
Readers are presented with a quill pen, sunglasses and fan, perfume bottles (four of them!), five rings (“A true princess can never have too many rings”) and a spare bracelet, a tiara and, natch, a magic mirror—“an object of great beauty and wisdom.” Each item is made of fairly sturdy cardboard that chubby little fingers can winkle out of their die-cut niches and place in the appropriate slots in the “purse compartment” found on the facing page. The book strains for some nominal “educational” value by adding a counting element and shape identification (of the gems).
The narration is as fatuous and narcissistic as the contents of the purse: “I will take only my dress-up sunglasses. Like my fan, my sunglasses provide relief from the powerful rays of the sun and they do make my world rosy.” The fairy godmother’s epistolary recitation of “grace, humility, intelligence, self-confidence, and imagination” as princessly qualities does nothing to mitigate the emphasis of the previous stomach-turning pages.
The message is clear and not at all new: Boys get to do cool active stuff like fight fires; girls are good for nothing but looking good.
It’s practically 2011, folks. Isn’t it time we moved beyond tripe like this?