Friday, May 31, 2019

Review - Princesses Wear Pants

Princesses Wear Pants (Princesses Wear Pants #1)
by Savannah Guthrie & Allison Oppenheim
illustrated by Eva Byrne
Date: 2017
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

From NBC’s TODAY coanchor Savannah Guthrie and educator Allison Oppenheim comes an empowering fairy tale with a twist.

In the tradition of Not All Princesses Dress in Pink and Princess in Black, Princesses Wear Pants follows the unflappable Princess Penelope Pineapple, who knows how to get the job done while staying true to herself. Princess Penelope lives in a beautiful palace with a closet full of beautiful dresses. But being a princess is much, much more than beauty. In fact, every morning Princess Penelope runs right past her frilly dresses to choose from her beloved collection of pants!

What she wears each day depends on which job she has to do. Will she command the royal air force sporting her sequined flight suit? Will she find her zen in her yoga pants and favorite tee? Or, will she work in the kingdom’s vegetable garden with pocketed overalls for all of her tools?

Unfortunately for Princess Penelope, not everyone in the Pineapple Kingdom thinks pants are always appropriate princess attire. When the grand Lady Busyboots demands that Princess Penelope must wear a gown to the annual Pineapple Ball, the young royal finds a clever way to express herself. Penelope’s courage (and style choices) result in her saving the day!

In their debut children’s picture book, Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim team up for a savvy and imaginative story that celebrates fashion and girl power. Perfect for fans of Nickelodeon’s Nella the Princess Knight, Princesses Wear Pants challenges gender stereotypes in the name of individuality, showing girls it’s not how they look but what they do that matters.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book has a decent message which is, unfortunately, repeatedly undermined by the text.

Penny is a princess with brown eyes, pink cheeks, and pigtails. The only thing more admired than her hair, according to the text, is her collection of tiaras and dresses. This is a girl who can paint, sing, and dance; do yoga; tend her garden to feed those in need; and fly an airplane in the Pineapple Air Command to protect her country. And she's admired most for... her collection of tiaras and dresses. What message are we trying to send here?

Next, there's the idea that pants are utilitarian only. Apparently, you can't be beautiful or pretty in a pair of pants. Penny is told by a snooty old woman that pants have no place on a lady. Penny isn't happy about that, but does she challenge it? No. She wears one of her gowns to the ball.

The climax of the story occurs when the royal cat falls into the moat. Apparently, only people in pants can do something like save a cat from drowning, but Penny's brother and father (all the men, really) just stand around and do nothing. Penny whips off her dress to reveal... No, not pants. You'd think it would be pants, wouldn't you? (The book sings the virtues of pants, so this part confused me.)

After Penny rescues the cat, the snooty old woman decides that dresses can get in the way. (What? So what was the men's excuse for not saving the cat?) The text also says that princesses should be allowed to wear whatever they like. This could've been taken further, I think. Everybody should be allowed to wear whatever they like. Maybe Penny's brother would've rather worn one of the dresses from her collection instead of that ridiculous frilly suit!

The book is written in rhyme, but the meter is really clunky. Overall, I'm having trouble with a book that purports to smash gender stereotypes but instead kind of reinforces them. Maybe if Penny had been admired for her character instead of her closet, I might have had a more favourable opinion.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.29 out of 5

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