Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book #19: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, Illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Image from

“Ronald," said Elizabeth, "your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum." They didn’t get married after all.

There’s nothing like a liberated and independent princess to make my day! And Princess Elizabeth, aka the Paper Bag Princess, is nothing if not liberated and independent.

This is the story of a beautiful princess who is engaged to marry the dashingly handsome Prince Ronald. Then one day a dragon smashes her castle and kidnaps Ronald. He also burns everything with his fiery breath, including all of Elizabeth’s clothes, even the ones she was wearing. The only thing left is a paper bag, which she resourcefully fashions into a paper bag dress (yes, I know, it makes absolutely no sense that of all things a paper bag would survive a fire, but then again it is a fairy tale). The now decent princess runs off to rescue her prince. Through a series of clever questions, the princess so exhausts the dragon that he falls into a deep slumber. However, when Elizabeth opens the door to set Ronald free all he can do is chastise her for her shabby appearance. So Elizabeth gives Ronald his just deserves (see above) and dances off into the sunset sans prince.

Besides being one of the pluckiest princesses in picture book history, I adore the fact that the Elizabeth does not wear pink, nor does she look like a sparkle monster threw up on her. It’s not that I hate the color pink or sparkles it’s just that they seem to have taken over picture books. It’s refreshing to see story about a princess that emphasizes her intellect rather than her beauty.

Developed by Munsch while he was a preschool teacher, this story is perfect for kids around that age. The story moves along quickly with just 2 or 3 sentences a page. The emphasis is on the action and dialogue rather than the description, which makes it a fun book to read aloud because you can use different voices for each character. The illustrations are done in pen and ink with moderate use of color. Like the text the pictures are straight forward, they aren’t complex and they don’t assault your eyes with splashy colors.

Image from the Happy or Hungry blog
The easiest craft to do after reading this book is to make your own paper bag dress. I found two great patterns: This first dress is very simple, while this second dress is much fancier. Try making a paper lunch bag princess puppet or if your child loves the dragon, a paper lunch bag dragon puppet. (This is the same one I posted for The Knight and The Dragon). And if you still have a mania for paper bag crafts, never fear, ABC Home Preschool has a list of over 50 paper bag craft ideas!

If you’re reading the story with younger kids, try the fingerplay, The Little Dragon. I like it because at the end the dragon lies down and snores, which seems appropriate for this book.

For older kids, try the call and response song, Princess Pat. Princess Pat, like Elizabeth, is very resourceful. She builds her own rig of bamboo and saves Captain Jack and his crew. Watch the video to learn the actions and make sure you leave time for the kids to sing their response. You’ll have to sing it a few times before they get all the words and motions, but it's definitely worth it.

On a side note, I have yet to figure out why Prince Ronald always carries a tennis racket. But I try not to think about it too much. He’s really not worth the effort.


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