‘The Guardian Princesses’ Book Series Are the Evolution of Princess Culture We All Need
If you’re kind of sick of the standard “princess” narrative involving damsels in distress and knights in shining armor, but still think you can kick butt while wearing an awesome pair of shoes, you might want to check out The Guardian Princesses. A new book series for kids by Setsu Shigematsu, they be the antidote to traditional “princess culture” — or possibly a new and exciting stage in its evolution. If I were still in these books’ target demographic, you can bet that I’d be putting them on my Christmas list. Heck, I still might go out and get one or two of them for myself, because they sound amazing.
Whereas some of today’s girl-powered play things have rejected the idea of “princess” entirely, The Guardian Princesses series works within it, repurposing the familiar framework and putting it to new use. The princesses themselves also fill a number of notable voids in stories for kids: Turning princesses into positive role models has been a trend in recent years, with Disney in particular doing their best to give characters like Brave’s Merida agency without basing their worth on romance; the Guardian Princesses hop on the same wagon. They also promote racial, cultural, and gender inclusivity — and they’re kind of like the princess version of Captain Planet, too: The characters’ abilities all have to do with preserving the planet and protecting all the forms of life that live on it. In short, as Feministing put it, they’re intersectional feminist princesses. Oh, and did I mention that the series is also available in Spanish? Because it is. It’s a win on all fronts, as far as I’m concerned.
“For my daughter’s fifth birthday, I decided to write an alternative princess story,” creator Setsu Shigematsu, who is a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside, told NPR in December of 2013. “The kids really enjoyed it. But what was really surprising was the way the parents respoMedianded.” They all told her she should publish her newly-minted Guardian Princesses stories, so she decided to give it a go. She raised $12,545 in an IndieGoGo campaign last fall — $3,000 more than her target of $9,500 — and got to work. The first four stories, which are available for pre-order now, feature Princess Terra, Guardian of the Land; Princess Vinnea, Guardian of Plant Life; Princess Mariana, Guardian of the Sea; and Princess Ten Ten, Guardian of the Skies.
You can meet all the princesses over at the Guardian Princesses website; each one protects a different geographic feature and area of the world. My personal favorite? Princess Ten Ten. Of East Asian descent, she wears a rockin’ set of red and yellow robes, practices martial arts, and fights air pollution — all while learning how to overcome the bullying she suffers because she’s just a little bit different.