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.
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.
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.
Wonder Woman may currently be filling Batman’s knee-highs in the digital revival of Sensation Comics, but it’s not the Amazon’s first rodeo in Gotham City. In Flower Power, one of Golden Books’ DC Super Friends line of early readers, the princess of Themyscira finds herself at Gotham Botanical Gardens, where she tag-teams with Batgirl to investigate the arrival of a glowing green meteorite.
Turns out our dynamic duo aren’t the only ones who are after the space rock. Poison Ivy, sensing the meteorite’s spooky “plant powers,” wants to use it to the planet into her own private terrarium. Before long, Wonder Woman and Batgirl are caught in the tentacled embrace of a rabid Venus flytrap.