Princess Backwards

Written by Jane Gray - Illustrated by Liz Milkau

Princess Fred lived with her parents, King Nancy and Queen David, in a castle not far from here.


Thus begins the story of the young woman, nicknamed Princess Backwards because in a kingdom where everything is the reverse of our world, she seems to always be doing things the wrong way.  When doing things her way results in the princess saving the kingdom, however, her subjects learn the valuable lesson that being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and can in fact be very useful.

I learned (or at least re-learned) a lesson of my own as well, in considering Princess Backwards for recommendation—that while it never hurts to guide kids towards great books with which they might not be familiar, as an adult choosing books for children you sometimes have to let go of your own preconceptions and preferences and just go with the instincts of the kids the books are meant for.  In the case of Princess Backwards, I was initially unimpressed with the book.  While the idea of the story was a great one, I found the ending a bit bluntly preachy, and the fairly traditional folk-style drawings weren’t to my taste.  My young niece, however, quickly reminded me, with actions even more than words, that my preferences in the artwork and voice of an otherwise great story are far less important than those of the kids I’m reading to.  When presented, during a visit to my house, with a stack of nearly twenty picture books on some of her favourite subjects from which to choose, she consistently insisted that she only wanted to hear Princess Backwards—-over, and over, and over again.  It was at that point that the realization struck me, that her devoted insistence of repeated readings of the book was sign enough that this was one I ought to be recommending for other children as well.

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