Olivia and the Fairy Princesses
Olivia is sick of fairy princesses and ballerinas. At a birthday party, all the girls (and some of the boys) dressed as sparkly fairy princesses. Olivia wears an Anna Wintour-style striped shirt and matador pants. During the dance recital tryouts, everyone–including some boys–tries out for the fairy princess. She is working on a “stark modern style” in which she performs Martha Graham’s “Lamentation” (excerpt). On Halloween, she dresses as a blue warthog. “It was very effective,” because she made the princesses back away in fear.
Falconer has Olivia make some good points. First, why does every girl want to dress up as a European or English princess? “Why not an Indian princess or a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China?” Second,”If everyone’s a princess, then princesses aren’t special anymore!” So Olivia considers alternative careers: a nurse, adopting orphans from all over the world, “a reporter [who exposes] corporate malfeasance.” Finally, she figures it out. When she grows up, she’ll be a queen.
This book is geared more toward older kids who have gone through a princess phase. It could also show younger kids different ways to be a princess, and dancing beyond ballet. Except for the alternative careers, Falconer didn’t really go into what it is a princess does to make her a princess (like Gail Caron Levine’s The Princess Test, or George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin), which is understandable as picture books are short. He got in the basic points of feminism and individuality that make Olivia an enduring “new classic” character for kids.