Tag: roger lancelyn green

Beyond the Ballgown: 9 Unusual Books About Princesses

When a friend asked for advice about raising daughters (he and his wife were expecting their first), all I came up with was, “Expect to find baby dolls in strange places. And there will be glitter all over your house, but you won’t know where it came from.” In retrospect, I’d like to add: “People will buy you princess things—so many princess things. Even when they know that you don’t want princess things in your house.”

Also, I’d probably say something about daughters being a gift from the Lord, and it being such a joy to raise them. And so on.

I’ve written before about our family’s approach to princesses, and have meant, for a good long time, to revisit that topic with a list of the books that our girls have fallen in love with—books that do a little, at least, to combat the pull of the Disney franchise by portraying princesses and queens in a courageous, wise, and truly beautiful (not weirdly-animated beautiful) light.

9 Unusual Books About Princesses | Little Book, Big Story

Some of these leading ladies aren’t technically princesses, but you’ll find queens in the mix and ladies and little girls who display beautifully what true princess-ness means. Here are some unusual books about princesses:

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, by C.S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis | Little Book, Big Story

Every good book list ought to open with these books, I think. And any list of books about strong leading ladies who are loving, empathetic and brave ought to open with Lucy Pevensie. (Read the full review.)

THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald | Little Book, Big Story

This book is old and wonderful: the story of Princess Irene, the miner Curdie, and Irene’s great-great-grandmother gives a great illustration of what it looks like to be a princess during the good times and the bad, in safety and in danger. (Read the full review.)

THE ORDINARY PRINCESS, by M.M. Kaye

The Ordinary Princess, by MM Kaye | Little Book, Big Story

When a cantankerous fairy bestows not the gift of grace, beauty or charm on the infant princess Amethyst, but instead gives her the gift of ordinariness, the story of Princess Amy, thoroughly ordinary in every way, begins. This book takes a good look at what makes us truly beautiful and how to recognize those that appreciate those qualities. (Read the full review.)

THE STORY OF ESTHER, by Eric Kimmel

The Story of Esther | Little Book, Big Story

What better picture of royal courage can we pull from Scripture than that of Esther? Though married to King Artaxerxes against her will, Queen Esther serves the Lord where she is placed and through her obedience, saves his people. She’s beautiful, faithful, and brave! (Read the full review.)

I’D BE YOUR PRINCESS, by Kathryn O’Brien

I'd Be Your Princess | Little Book, Big Story

This sweet picture book follows the conversation between a father and a daughter as she imagines what it would be like if he was a king and she was a princess. Her father ties her vision gently back to Scripture and encourages his daughter to cultivate the qualities that Scripture emphasizes. (Read the full review.)

A LITTLE PRINCESS, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett | Little Book, Big Story

Though not a literal princess, Sara Crewe lives like one: pampered by her beloved papa and treated as royalty by the headmistress of her boarding school, she enjoys life’s luxuries—until a plot twist takes them all (every last one) away. But she determines to go on living like a princess in all the right ways all the same. (Read the full review.)

THE PRINCESS AND THE KISSby Jennie Bishop

The Princess and the Kiss, by Jennie Bishop | Little Book, Big Story

Jennie Bishop’s fable about a princess who is given a gift at birth meant only for the man she marries gives a lovely picture for young girls of marriage and purity—even answering gently, at one point, the question, “What if he isn’t out there for me?” This is a book that I appreciate for the way it helps shape our daughters’ views on marriage and sexuality while telling a story about a royal family who knows what to truly value.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, by Roger Lancelyn Green

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

Okay, Maid Marian isn’t technically a princess, but she does rub elbows with royalty, wear lovely gowns (sometimes, at least), and marry her true love at the (almost) end of the story. But she’s also fearless and loyal, willing to stand her ground against injustice and to fight for good alongside her fiance. There are many retellings of Robin Hood’s adventures, but Maid Marian’s character in this one makes it my favorite. (Read the full review.)

THE KING’S EQUAL, by Katherine Paterson

The King's Equal | Little Book, Big Story

Katherine Paterson, author of The Bridge to Terebithia and many, many other books, puts a beautiful twist on those stories that marry off princesses as prizes for killing dragons and so on. When the king dies, he leaves his kingdom to his proud and quite unlikeable son on the stipulation that he finds a wife that is truly his equal. The search for such a woman leads to lovely and unexpected results—and no one is more surprised by them than the prince. (Read the full review.)

What are your favorite books about princesses?

10 Chapter Books to Read Aloud With Your Daughter

When we read a good book to our children, we delegate: we enlist the help of gifted authors to demonstrate for them (and for us, too) what life is like in other places, other times, other bodies. This is what it looks like, a good book says, to ask for forgiveness even when the asking is hard, to love the unloved, to find joy in the common graces of life.

A good book takes us outside our own experience, outside a particular moment where Papa reads aloud to the rest of us, who were drawing a moment before but now sit—sniffling, pens suspended—as we listen to Prince Rilian’s farewell to his father. This is grief. This is joy.

This is, in a sense, one aspect of what the Bible does for us: it shows us what it looks like to fight against God, to persevere when we don’t want to, to look forward to the life yet to come. We study the movements of the Lord’s hand through each story and find comfort in the fact that his hand moves in our stories, too. We watch other lives lived out in its pages and recognize ourselves in them; that recognition then shapes the way we respond to trouble when it comes. This is where rebellion leads; this is redemption.

10 Chapter Books to Read Aloud With Your Daughter | Little Book, Big Story

And so we fill the corners of our hearts with Scripture and the corners of our home with good books. We surround our daughters with characters that they can connect with, characters who are foolish and funny, warm and wise, prone to mischief or perhaps a little too perfect. We introduce them to AnneJo, Heidi, Lucy, and Laura, of course. And then we move on to Bobbie, Phyllis and Irene, Emily and Rose—heroines of the lesser-known works of great authors or of the books picked up on a whim that are, perhaps, unassuming on the outside but radiant within.

Here, for your pleasure, is a list of our favorites. These stories don’t appeal exclusively to girls, by the way. Quite a few of them feature male characters that share the spotlight with the female lead or simply steal it outright, but they’re boys (and men) of good quality that I want my girls to know and love. I suspect that those of you with sons might find that your boys scoot their Legos a little closer to the couch whenever you pull these books out to read with your daughter. (I’ve marked those books with an asterisk.)

*THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, by E. Nesbit

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit | Little Book, Big Story

When their father is unexpectedly (and mysteriously) called away from home, three children move to the English countryside with their mother. Adventures large and small ensue, all told in the charming style of E. Nesbit. This book is one of my very favorites. (Read the full review.)

*THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald | Little Book, Big Story

An old fairy tale of the best sort, written by an author who came to my attention because C.S. Lewis gave him a hearty endorsement. This is, I think, the best of his books for children, and features the princess Irene and her unlikely friend, Curdie. There is also a magical great-great-great-great-grandmother and a whole passel of ornery goblins. (Read the full review.)

WHAT KATY DID, by Susan Coolidge

What Katy Did, by Susan Coolidge | Little Book, Big Story

Circumstances change abruptly, both in life and in plot lines. What Katy Did demonstrates both aspects of this, and through the story of Katy Carr, shows how the road of suffering often leads to the most glorious destinations. (Read the full review.)

THE TINKER’S DAUGHTER, by Wendy Lawton

The Tinker's Daughter, or "Why is it so hard to find strong Christian characters in fiction?" | Little Book, Big Story

Here is a marriage of history and fiction. Wendy Lawton tells the story of Mary Bunyan, the sightless daughter of John Bunyan, as she navigates life during her father’s imprisonment. This is a beautifully told story and shows the progress of Mary’s fledgling faith alongside the robust, proven faith of her father. (Read the full review.)

*THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, by Roger Lancelyn Green

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

There is a good deal of “bashing of crowns” and “striking one another with blows” in this book, it’s true. But this unlikely candidate merits a spot on this list for three reasons: 1) Maid Marian is no nameless damsel in distress here but a woman bold, courageous, and virtuous. 2) The men in this book know how to treat the ladies. 3) My daughters loved it. (Read the full review.)

EMILY OF NEW MOON, by L.M. Montgomery

Emily of New Moon, by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

You already know about Anne. Emily of New Moon is the slightly darker tale—a deep violet to Anne’s brassy red, twilight to Anne’s fresh morning—of Emily Starr, poetess, orphan, and bewitching lead lady. My affection for this book is deep, my friends. So deep. (Read the full review.)

*TREASURES OF THE SNOW, by Patricia St. John

Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St. John | Little Book, Big Story

Have you heard of this book? I hadn’t either until a friend recommended it at a wedding reception dinner. But Treasures of the Snow is a beauty worth seeking out: in it, you’ll find the gospel faithfully represented in a fictional setting, as a feud rises up between two families that needs the wisdom of a grandmother and the power of the gospel to resolve. (Read the full review.)

THE KING’S EQUAL, by Katherine Paterson

The King's Equal | Little Book, Big Story

The author of Bridge to Terebithia tells an old-fashioned tale of an arrogant prince who cannot assume the kingship until he finds a wife who is “his equal.” (He thinks himself so wonderful that this must be all but impossible.) The King’s Equal is available as either a very short chapter book or a rather long picture book. In either format, it’s a joy to read. (Read the full review.)

A LITTLE PRINCESS, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett | Little Book, Big Story

Okay, so you probably have heard of this one. It isn’t as famous than its celebrated cousin, The Secret Garden, but if I’m perfectly honest, I liked it better. Sara Crewe—wealthy and petted, but gentle and kind—suffers a fall of fortunes and determines to be a true princess throughout her trial. Unlikely friendships, unexpected blessings, and a satisfying conclusion spring from this decision. (Read the full review.)

*EIGHT COUSINS, Louisa May Alcott

Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott | Little Book, Big Story

Sheltered and newly orphaned Rose meets her uncle and eight boy cousins for the first time, finds them bewilderingly active but ultimately endearing and goes on to forge the best sort of friendship with them. This book is funny, charming, and beautiful all at once, and sparkles with the same delight in story and language that fuels Alcott’s Little Women. (Read the full review.)


Have I missed any? What are your favorite little-known chapter books for girls?

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Roger Lancelyn Green

Our two oldest daughters do not like movies. The call, “Let’s watch a movie!” is enough to make one of them flee, no matter how much popcorn we throw in to sweeten the deal. The other maintains an interested distance, watching wide-eyed from the doorway as we settle onto the couch.

I understand this. I, too, prefer the slower, less stimulating pace of a good book to the exhausting speed of cinema, and for a variety of reasons. But their father would like to watch Star Wars with them one day, and he’d like to do it without one of them buried in his armpit, trembling, while the other one cowers in the next room. And so we began a campaign. We call it “The Get the Girls to Like Movies Campaign.”

Our strategy is simple: Watch a movie or two a month until we find one that they actually like. Find more movies like that one. And so on.

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

We struck out a few times (having forgotten how terrifying Pixar movies can be), but this month, at last, we succeeded! We won them over with a movie  pulled from the murky depths of our own childhoods—one whose success with our daughters surprised even us: Disney’s 1973 movie, Robin Hood. We hoped they would at least tolerate it, but a few minutes into the film it became apparent that they had already moved to a deeper level of affection: they loved it.

They now both answer to Maid Marian, have both announced their intentions to have Robin Hood-themed birthday parties and have taken a renewed interest in the bows they received for Christmas. When I told them that Robin Hood is also a book—and not only that, but a book that we have right here in our house—they looked at me like I had just announced that we shall, henceforth, eat only ice cream for breakfast.

Maid Marian in Training | Little Book, Big Story

Obviously, we started reading the book together.

Have you read The Adventures of Robin Hood? I had. And I have to admit, I had read it since starting this blog and decided, on the first read through, not to include it here. I so badly wanted the book to end after Chapter 21 (“King Richard came back and they got married! The End”), but the story goes on for two more heartbreaking chapters while everything that I loved about the book until that point slowly bled out of the story by the last page.

Maid Marian in Training | Little Book, Big Story

After reading through it again, though, I loved those first twenty-one chapters so much that I decided to include it here with a simple warning: if you do not want to end the story with a deflated whump, stop at the end of Chapter 21. It pains me a little to recommend that, because I am usually the sort to read not only the entire book, whether I liked it or not—I have been won over by many books with slow openings that way—but also the acknowledgements, notes, and author interview at the back (if available). I am thorough and a little obsessive about this.

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

But enough about that. Now I will tell you why I love (the first twenty-one chapters of) The Adventures of Robin Hood:

Robin Hood. Robin gives up everything he has—lands, title, marriage, wealth—in order to fight for his absent king and care for his down-trodden neighbors, but he is not self-righteous or obnoxiously perfect. He is likable, bold, and gentleman enough to laugh when fairly beaten. (I like that in a hero.)

Maid Marian. You may remember her as the good-natured, long-lashed fox from the cartoon, but that, my friends, is just one paltry interpretation of her character. In Green’s book, she is “tall and beautiful, but strong and fearless also, a very fitting wife for such a man [as Robin].” This lovely lady is an expert archer and wields a sword with as much mastery as Robin himself, but she is also a gracious hostess, virtuous maiden, and loving but strong-willed daughter. I adore pretty much everything about her and prefer her, hands down, to King Arthur‘s Guinevere any day.

The Adventures! The whole notion of living in the nooks and crannies of Sherwood Forest while fighting for the sake of the rightful king is deeply appealing to me as well as to my daughters. How we love reading about Little John, Friar Tuck, the despicable Prince John! How we long for those moments when Robin Hood throws off his disguise and saves the day!

These stories have been told again and again by poets, authors and filmmakers, but I do love the elegance and excitement that Roger Lancelyn Green weaves into his version. As I said earlier, this book is not perfect—ending aside, it is a little uneven in places—but Green captures the energy and humor of the stories in a beautiful way, and while the language is fairly advanced, I have been surprised at how much both of our girls, at six and four, pick up and enjoy from each story. (I have taken to retelling Robin’s adventures as bedtime stories, though, just to be sure.)


The Adventures of Robin Hood
Roger Lancelyn Green (1956)

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table | Roger Lancelyn Green

Merlin and Morgan le Fay have become household names around here, not because of any particular affinity on our part for Camelot, but because Lydia is currently smitten with the books in the Magic Treehouse series, in which Merlin and Morgan le Fay appear as sidekicks of a sort to the time-travelling protagonists. This fact inspired me to brush up on Arthurian legend, because, contrary to the Magic Treehouse interpretation of the characters, I didn’t remember Merlin being the sort of fellow who typically relied on the help of eight-year-old children (I had yet to read The Once and Future King) and because I remembered Morgan le Fay as being, well, evil.

And so I read King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, and found myself caught up in the golden age of chivalry, where the grass of Britain was emerald green, the knights thundered about on their horses, armor clinking, and the damsels suffered perpetual distress. Roger Lancelyn Green (one of the Inklings, by the way) writes beautifully, retelling the old, old stories of Arthur and company with a sweeping, noble air, and doing justice to the depth of characters like Launcelot, noble but broken, or Galahad in his seeming perfection, as they ride off on their famous adventures to battle wicked knights and quest for the Holy Grail.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green | Little Book, Big Story

This is, in effect, a collection of stories about Arthur and his knights, shepherded under the banner of a common narrative, so while it’s a lovely read straight through, it’s easy to pick and choose the stories that your child might enjoy if you don’t feel they’re quite ready for some of the more—ahem—mature content yet. One of the major subplots in this book is adultery, after all, and there is quite a lot of beheading and severing of limbs and such, but this telling is geared toward children, so the content is handled gracefully. But if you’re just not ready to introduce certain topics to your child or find that, as in our house, there’s not a huge demand for stories about knights and chivalry, you can pick and choose your tales.

I read the first half of “The Sword in the Stone” to Lydia, mostly because I wanted to her to be familiar with at least part of the original story of Morgan le Fay and Merlin, and she enjoyed it in a polite sort of way before going back to her Magic Treehouse books. I, in turn, went back to The Once and Future King, which I had started reading immediately after finishing King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table—because it seems that I have developed an affinity for Camelot after all.


King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
Roger Lancelyn Green (1953)