Princess Pink isn’t a princess, nor is she a fan of the color pink. In defiance of her frothy moniker, Princess prefers “dirty sneakers, giant bugs, mud puddles, and cheesy pizza” over fairies, ballerinas, and the princess dresses her mother attempts to foist upon her. Unsurprisingly, the magical world Princess stumbles upon through her refrigerator door one night isn’t a Narnia, an Oz, or even a sideways Wonderland. Instead, the Land of Fake-Believe is a shared fairy-tale universe gone amok, with an oddball cast of subverted characters such as the green-haired Moldylocks (of Three Beards fame—”much scarier than bears”), The Three Pugs, a kleptomaniac fowl named Little Red Quacking Hood, and, perhaps oddest of all, the Tunacorn, a kind of unicorn with a tuna fish for a horn.
I’ve never been a fan of the term “girl power.” Despite its ’90s riot grrrl origins—the “grrr stood for growling,” according to feminist scholar Anita Harris—girl power has become less an expression of feminine empowerment than a form of prepackaged consumerism masquerading as dumbed-down ideology. Get over the patronizing attitude, however, and My First Book of Girl Power is a pretty decent Who’s Who of DC Comics’ female pantheon for the board-book set. Just don’t expect a whole lot of depth—or diversity.
Set against the rolling hills of pseudo-medieval France, Giants Beware! is the story of Claudette, a pint-size rapscallion who wears her hair short and her temper shorter. The daughter of the village blacksmith, Claudette has a singular ambition: to snuff out the neighborhood baby-feet-eating giant and destroy it. There are a few kinks in the would-be giant slayer’s plans, however. Her father, who was maimed fighting a dragon, makes light of her quest, considering it a child’s idle fancy. She also has to rally a pair of reluctant squires—an aspiring princess named Marie and her timorous younger brother, Gaston—to her cause, which she succeeds through some light chicanery.
Watching Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time, my 6-year-old daughter immediately glommed onto the character of Princess Leia. This wasn’t surprising in the least—I did pretty much the same when I was her age. But with the exception of a Golden Book, published in 1997 and now heinously out of print, children’s books featuring the Alderaan royal are few and far between. While Star Wars: Escape From Darth Vader doesn’t mend the gap per se, it’s one of the rare stories to cast Leia as the central human protagonist. Part of Disney Publishing’s “World of Reading” series, the book retells the opening scenes of Episode IV, just before Leia is captured by “mean and scary” Darth Vader’s forces.
Like the shadows that flicker in the corner of your eye, Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things doesn’t fill you with outright terror—at least, not at first. Far more frightening is its creeping sense of dread, the nagging feeling that something is unutterably, irretrievably wrong.
Courtney’s tale, like most cracking ghost stories, begins with a spooky old mansion. “Do you know that one house, the most talked-about house in the whole neighborhood?” asks the omniscient narrator. “It is well known that terrible things happen there. And that Old Man Crumrin is madder than a Victorian hatmaker.”
It’s also the house that Courtney and her tedious, social-climbing parents would soon call home.
Still think that Wonder Woman’s Greek myth origins are “too complicated” for the silver screen, movie execs? I Can Read: I Am Wonder Woman gets down to the brass tacks, explaining Diana’s story so cogently even a five-year-old could follow. (Mine certainly did.)
The early reader covers the basics: Paradise Island, princess, Amazons, Gods-given powers. But it also throws in the magic truth-inducing magic lasso, Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, her civilian identity, and even her friendship with Superman and Batman—all in fewer than 32 pages, most comprising pithy sentences.
Princess at Midnight is the story of Holly Crescent, a preadolescent girl who lives a cloistered existence in a narrow townhouse somewhere in England. By day, she’s homeschooled by an overprotective father alongside her twin brother, Henry. At night, she’s magically transported to another plane of existence, where she reigns as princess of Castle Waxing. Instead of squaring off in the classroom with Henry, Holly engages in a land dispute with her kingdom’s sworn enemy, the Horrible Horde.
Princess Holly isn’t a milquetoast regent—she’s brash, irascible, and frequently unsympathetic; more Boudica than Belle. When ogres from the Horde attack her favorite picnic spot, Holly declares war. Her chancellor, a dragon, suggests drawing up a treaty to declare the area common property, but the princess will not be persuaded. “Share?” she barks. “I’m a princess, I don’t do sharing.” Someone fetch the smelling salts!
Animal Princess would rather muck about in the sewers fighting slime monsters than wear another frilly princess dress. In fact, she frequently does, ditching the usual royal trappings for animal-themed pajamas that grant her the abilities of the creatures she emulates.
With her trusty feline steed, Buttercup, at her side, Animal Princess dispatches nefarious thee-head wizards, frosting-spewing sentient cupcakes, and spectral dust bunnies alike with moxie and an almost fiendish aplomb. You won’t find any shoehorned moral lessons here; The Radically Awesome Adventures of the Animal Princess is pure bombastic mischief.
Double Fine’s Broken Age is only half the game it set out to be, but that’s OK. One of Kickstarter’s biggest crowdfunding triumphs, the point-and-click adventure surpassed its $400,000 goal less than 12 hours into its campaign in February 2012. It would go on to rake in $3.3 million, a sum so princely that the game could only grow in scope to match.
A victim of its own ambition—studio boss and LucasArts alum Tim Schafer blamed himself for designing “too much game”—Double Fine ran out of money mid-development. But instead of begging its backers for more, the company settled on an unorthodox solution: selling the first half of Broken Age to fund the second, to be delivered as a free update at a later time.
It’s apparent from the outset that Hilda isn’t your typical blue-haired little girl. For one thing, she lives with her mother in the mountains, on the edge of a forest populated by magical creatures. In Hilda’s world, boys are made out of wood, antlered foxes gambol alongside itinerant water spirits, and furry beasts flock across the skies.
Hildafolk is an amuse-bouche of a tale. One of London publisher Nobrow’s 17×23 series, a format for emerging artists to “tell their stories in a manageable and economic format,” the book offers a glimpse into a world that’s tantalizingly, almost vexingly, brief.