A few weeks ago a review request came across my mailbox and I was too curious to pass it up. It had “Princess” in the title, but thankfully I had heard rumors of this book and I am always searching for “princess books” that break the mold. Kate Beaton’s new book doesn’t even come close to fitting any supposed mold. The word “princess” is merely a title for our little heroine and plays very little role in the plot of the story. Beaton has created a story about Vikings, birthday presents, ponies, and perceptions that will make you laugh, warm your heart, and remind you of no other princess book you’ve seen before. Take a look at The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton, 2015.
Princesses. I have a very uneasy feeling anytime the subject of princesses comes up in today’s children’s market. Princess themes seem to be everywhere. I probably lean much more anti-princess than I should and I have to remind myself to think back to my own childhood. I was a child of the 80s where the Disney movies were continually coming out, but they were not marketed as “princess movies” back then. They were just Disney movies and everyone was fairly excited about the new releases. I also was a very “stereotypical girl,” loving pink, dresses, dolls, tea parties, and Barbies. But as most people tend to not be one-dimensional in their interests, I could also be found playing with cars & Legos, climbing trees, playing soccer, and hunting for worms. I probably would have been excited by the “princess market” had it existed back then, and that is the part of me that I have to remember as I seek out balance in raising my own girls. While I still plan to block any obvious media brainwashing to obsess over a particular theme, I’m also seeking out ways to encourage their interests and broaden their perspectives on ideas.
This picture book takes place in the world of Vikings, a setting I can honestly say does not appear in any of the other picture books that I own. The heroine is a small, blonde-headed girl who happens to be a princess and is named Pinecone. It happens to be coming up on Princess Pinecone’s birthday and we are told that warriors get fantastic birthday presents to help them be better, stronger, faster warriors. Princess Pinecone apparently breaks that present-giving mold as well. She always receives cozy sweaters. “Warriors do not need cozy sweaters.”
But Princess Pinecone longs to be a good warrior, as any good Viking would, so she takes matters into her own hands by going to great lengths and much detail with her parents about the present she desires. She wants a warrior-worthy pony.
Despite her best efforts and her family trying hard; she is devastated by the small, round, cute, yet odd-looking pony. This is no warrior pony. She has her work ahead of her to try to make herself and this pony battle-ready.
When the next big battle arrives, Princess Pinecone has not given up on her pony, but looks for an opportune spot to join in the frenzy. Suddenly, she and her pony are confronted by the fiercest warrior and they must discover if they are truly skilled warriors.
Obviously I am going to stop there, because where is the fun in giving away the ending. I dare not do that, but I am giving away two copies of this unique little picture book! But before I get to that, I have more to say, of course.
I have been mulling over this picture book since receiving it. I’m still not quite sure what I think about it. I think my biggest question about it is the fact that the pony has a tendency towards farting. Lest you think me a prude, I will remind you that I adore some hilarious potty-humor when it is clever and perfectly timed. I don’t feel that is the case here. While I knew that was a minor element of the story, merely being a characteristic of the pony, it felt a little out of place with the flow of the plot. I don’t like to feel like someone is trying to get a reaction from me and that is what I get here. Humor me, but don’t let on that you are striving towards that. Also, I’m struggling to read this one to our girls as we have chosen a different term for the time being and I’d rather not confuse with a book right now. But that is a side point.
So the potty-humor is a question mark for me, but here is what I do love about the book and why I am writing a review and hosting a giveaway. This story is warm, tender, and carrying a very subtle message about appearances; but it is all wrapped up in a storyline about spit-ball fighting warriors. There is a princess, but that title, when purely defined from this book, means a little girl who longs to be a part of the action and struggles to communicate clearly and represent herself well. I can live with that definition. I like her style, her tact, her resourcefulness, and her generosity. She is disappointed by her gift, but she isn’t a brat about it. She accepts it and tries to make the best of the situation by caring for it and learning to love it as it is. She is open to redefining her desires, herself, and the people she encounters. While I fear this book will stay pigeon-holed as a “girl-book” due to its title and cover; I hope it finds its way into many hands as a reminder that a princess can look a myriad of different ways, a pony can surprise you in looks and actions, and you should always give people room to fully express themselves.
If you would like to love on The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton yourself, it is now selling in stores as of June 30. And I am pleased to offer two of my faithful readers a copy of their own! Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy and the giveaways! Here are the details. First off, meet Kate:
“Kate Beaton is the author of Hark! A Vagrant, her #1 New York Times bestselling collection of comics which began as a webcomic in 2007. The Princess and the Pony is her first picture book. She is the recipient of multiple Harvey awards, and her work has been featured in the New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Best American Comics Anthology. Kate lives in Toronto, and you can find her online at www.beatontown.com and on Twitter as @beatonna.”
I am so excited about all the press that Kate is receiving for her first picture book! While I am not familiar with her comics, I plan to look them up as I think her illustration style is hilarious. I sincerely wish her the best and look forward to the rumored next book….
And now, to enter yourself to win one of two copies of the book, please leave a comment by Monday, July 13, 2015, 11:59pm. I will use my very old-school selection process and pick two winners to announce on Tuesday morning. Be sure to leave an email address or something so I can contact you when you win! (And so sorry to my international readers, but this one is only for U.S. residents.) Good luck and happy reading!
Our giveaway is now closed. Thanks so much to those who participated! Our winners are Sara A. and Cassandra Eastman!