YA recommendations with lists, pictures, and frequent parentheticals.
Spoiler Rating: Moderate
Ashers, oh my goodness.
I know you know Kate Beaton, because Hark! A Vagrant is a thing we've shared. So I'm assuming you've heard plenty of mutterings around the Internet about her picture book The Princess and the Pony.
I'd been sidling my way toward this book since it was first announced, and finally got my hands on a copy. Andrew read it to me the other night (because picture books are best enjoyed when read to you, and because Andrew's a number one dude), and I can assure you that it is great.
Princess Pinecone knows exactly what she wants for her birthday this year. A BIG horse. A STRONG horse. A horse fit for a WARRIOR PRINCESS! But when the day arrives, she doesn't quite get the horse of her dreams...
What does this book have to offer?
An interracial family!
Powerful women as role models taped on little girls' walls!
Warriors of all sizes and shapes and colors!
I hadn't realized Princess Pinecone was biracial until we started reading the book, and my excitement level immediately went from 95 to 195%. And her family's interracialness is the most non-issue of non-issues, which boosted that number even higher.
And of course women warrioring on horseback always get my vote. That could've gone without saying.
Princess Pinecone maaaay only be a princess in her own opinion; this story's sole nod toward royalty is the title page's depiction of a walled-and-turreted city (okay, and a reference to this being a kingdom of warriors). Pinecone's parents seem to be as unroyal as anyone else: they stand in line to purchase tickets for the great battle, and cheer with all the other spectators from the stands.
More importantly (to me), Pinecone doesn't pull a Royal Temper Tantrum when faced with her disappointing birthday present. She's dubious, sure, but she immediately sets to problem-solving (i.e. attempting to teach the pony how to warrior in time for the upcoming great battle). When the training fails abysmally, does Pinecone try to Royal Temper Tantrum her way onto a different steed?
Nope. She shrugs and rides her pony into the arena with grim determination.
This is a princess who's treated just like everyone else—who solves her own problems, and faces her own disappointments. No servants or advisers or lackeys in sight. She's strong because of who she is, not what she is.
(And, hey, look—a warrior woman in a hijab! I love this book to death, Ashers.)
Depictions of Strength!
Sure, this is a warrior society, and Pinecone envisions herself becoming the fiercest warrior of all—but strength isn't just muscle and moxie. Pinecone figures out (to her initial dismay) that strength can come from whatever traits you have to offer.
Yes, even if you're an untrainable, wall-eyed sausage of a pony
If I'd had this book as a kid, Mom would've never been able to pry it out of my fierce warrior grip. It's gorgeous and funny and empowering and inclusive, and I love it.
Hope you're not dying of heat and humidity,
This has been a crazy busy month, so don't look for my next letter until Saturday the 29th. I'll at least have started something longer than a picture book by then, I swear.