The paper bag princess by Robert Munsch

cover image

Illus. by Michael Martchenko. Scholastic, 2020. ISBN: 9781760974602.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. With the dragon retiring to his cave with the kidnapped Prince Ronald, he leaves in his wake a fire ravaged castle and a naked Princess Elizabeth. She determines to rescue her betrothed, donning a paper bag to cover he nakedness, using her resourcefulness to follow the dragon's tracks.
Stalwart and fierce, determined and unwavering, Princess Elizabeth is not put off by the dragon's slammed door nor his fiery breath.
She tricks him into showing off his considerable skills, thereby exhausting himself, enabling her to release Ronald. Readers will laugh out loud at the wily Princess Elizabeth and the overconfident dragon.
But the humour does not end there: a twist in the tale sees Ronald dismissing his lady love because of how she looks and Princess Elizabeth can skip off into the sunrise ready for adventures anew.
This lovely twist of a classic rescue from a dragon fairy tale will be eagerly welcomed by a new audience, a wonderful story first published forty years ago. My battered copy from the 80's sits on my shelves but now will have a handsome companion in this hard cover reissue.
The story is humorous and witty, reworking an old story but with a twist which will tickle the funny bones of all readers. Lots of thoughts and ideas will be sparked by this story: twisted fairy tales, the role of princesses and princes, image, clothing, appearance, while readers will question why people are expected to behave and dress in a particular way, and look at how this impacts on our behaviour.
In this edition, a note at the start by Chelsea Clinton, sets the scene of a family reading the story. She talks of the strengths revealed by the story, strengths children can emulate, defeating the dragons without losing their kindness and goodness.
This is followed by a short essay, 'Stand up to dragons' by Francesca Segal, an award winning British journalist and author, and the book is closed with an account of the book's beginnings by Ann Munsch with Robert Munsch.
(I was intrigued by the way the authorship was penned, so found more information from Wikipedia.)
Each of the three additions to this edition make interesting reading for the adult before they read the story out loud to the class, and older students will be intrigued by the beginnings of the book and how it came to be.
The wonderful illustrations will delight today's readers, marvelling at the way an illustrator can use small strokes of his pen and brush to give human qualities to the images of the characters. And I love the drawing of the nonchalant dragon, one leg crossed over the other, and the toadying Ronald, complete with tennis racquet admonishing his rescuer.
Lots of fun will be had with this reissue of the classic, The paper bag princess.
Themes: Image, Twisted fairy tale, Appearance, Dragons, Kidnapping, Rescue.
Fran Knight