Princesses Are Not Just Pretty

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Princesses Are Not Just Pretty Book Poster Image
Character counts more than looks is the light lesson here.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the life and leisure of princesses and what's involved in holding a contest.

Positive Messages

Princesses Are Not Just Pretty offers positive messages about kindness, helping others, valuing character over looks, and what it means to be a good friend.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters appear simplistic at first but are revealed to have greater depth of character than originally thought.

Violence & Scariness

There's minor bickering over who's prettiest of all. Though no insulting language is used, the princesses focus on praising their own physical attributes by out-bragging one another. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know That Princesses Are Not Just Pretty -- the third in the Princesses Are Not... series -- subverts the typical tropes about princesses as beautiful creatures who don't do much, and offers an unexpected twist. However, it still shows them arguing at length over who is the fairest of them all, and has a resolution that feels slight. The message here is ultimately positive, but for toddlers or preschoolers, it could inadvertently reinforce what it aims to counter. May be best for veteran princess devotees in need of a good lesson in an appealing package.

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What's the story?

Princesses Mellie, Allie, and Libby are lounging under the rose trellis in their palace by the sea when they get into a bit of an argument: Who among them is the prettiest of them all? An upturned nose, freckles like cinnamon, purple hair -- surely one of these things is superior to the others. They eventually decide to hold a contest, but on the way to the judging, a few distractions prove these princesses are about much more than their good looks.

Is it any good?

PRINCESSES ARE NOT JUST PRETTY has a few things going for it. The watercolor illustrations are gorgeous, creating a frilly, pastel, Marie Antoinette color palate of delicate richness. And the story, which stresses the importance of character, action, and kindness among princesses inclined toward arguments about vanity, is a nice twist. The issue is that for very young kids, or those merely tiptoeing on the fringe of princess culture, the first half of the book -- with its appealing frivolity and who's-prettier banter -- has a way of inadvertently reinforcing what it sets out to contrast. Plus, the message that being pretty isn't all that matters, feels slight in comparison to the very thing that makes being a princess fun in the first place -- sitting around eating cupcakes in grand dresses and elaborately coiffed manes.

Parents looking to distract from princess culture altogether may have better luck with more surefooted entries in the Adventurous Princesses category. But those who are happy to find an artful book that appeals to the fanatic, while stressing positive lessons about doing good for others -- emphasis on doing something at all -- will be delighted.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bragging. What does it mean to brag? How's it different from feeling good about yourself? 

  • Who's your favorite princess in the book, and why? Why do you think they care so much about who's the prettiest?

  • Can you think of other princesses who help people? How?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and princesses

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