The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Albert Nguyen
Hatshepsut of Egypt
Artemisia of Caria
Sorghaghtani of Mongolia
Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman
Isabella of Castile
Nur Jahan of India
Happy birthday to the world’s most famous queen (still!) who turns 85 today, making her son the oldest prince-waiting-to-be-king in British history. Next week, on April 29, Queen E2 will be welcoming another princess into the family when Prince William makes a royal of Kate Middleton.
Let’s hope Princess Kate has some good role models as she figures out her impending future … someone in the royal inner circle might do well to share this refreshing Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses with her! In addition to that fabulous title – no fluffy, wait-for-my-Prince-Charming, shrinking pink Disney princesses here! – this historic series covers the lives of six exceptional, independent women. Girl power all the way!
Written by award-winning Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Albert Nguyen using a mixture of photographs, maps, period art reproductions, and original paintings, each of the six titles tells not only the story of a historically important woman-in-charge. but offers a pronunciation guide, a map of where she lived and ruled, as well as contextual information as to what she ate and what she probably wore. Presented in a chatty, contemporary tone to engage today’s younger readers, the series makes these seemingly faraway stories both timely and entertaining.
Move over King Tut and pay homage to Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first woman Pharaoh, who ruled (dressed in Pharoah drag with breasts bared!) for 22 flourishing years. Artemisia defied all gender conventions in ancient Greece and commanded great warships as an admiral. Sorghaghtani was instrumental in uniting and growing the vast empire claimed by her father-in-law, the great Genghis Khan.
Qutlugh Terkan Khatun survived numerous husbands, the last one who left her a Persian kingdom she ruled with renowned wisdom and justice. Isabella (a distant ancestor of our birthday royal … she was Henry VIII’s mother-in-law temporarily while he was married to her daughter Catherine) ruled equally with her King Ferdinand, and not only united Spain but also underwrote that fateful three-ship expedition led by Christopher Columbus. And Nur Jahan (whose niece would be memorialized forever in the Taj Mahal) ruled the Moghul Empire, all the while helping to better the lives of women!
Each book stands alone, but the six together pack a historical girl-power punch. A few minor quibbles: a bibliography or some sort of reference section would have been enriching, photo and art captions would have been appreciated, and some of the reproduced works seem graphically inappropriate for such young readers (eek! two men sawing a prisoner in half from the head down, complete with splattering blood!). And I did wonder why a few of our thinking princesses were so pale: if Artemisia was from what is now southwest Turkey, would she have been so blond and fair-skinned? What about a rather pink Hatshepsut in Egypt many millennia before sunblock? Hmmmm …
If the pictures seems a bit washed out, the writing thankfully is not. Bridges is sure to add the bad and ugly, as needed. Hatshepsut’s post-death mystery, Artemisia’s brutal war tactics, the horrors of Isabella’s Spanish Inquisition, and Nur Jahan’s behind-the-screens political machinations are all included.
Strength and accomplishment certainly came with high prices! Without turning a blind eye, Bridges shows history is filled with inspiring feminist lessons … and not just for princesses, either!
Next up: The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames forthcoming in Fall 2011! Stay tuned!
Tidbit: Back when my teen daughter was a be-bopping little toddler, her favorite song was “Cinderella” – no, no, no, it’s NOT what you’re expecting. If The Thinking Girls ever needed a soundtrack, they’d do well with this one. I was just recalling how great the lyrics were, and this link landed in my inbox for which I am SOOO gleefully thankful:
Readers: Children, Middle Grade