Author: Robert Munsch Illustrator: Michael Martchenko
Age Level: 4-8 years
Publisher: Annick press
Robert Munsch’s classic story The Paper Bag Princess is a hilarious twist on traditional fairy tales. Elizabeth is a beautiful princess who fits the role perfectly. She lives in a castle, wears expensive clothes and is going to marry her prince.
There the similarity ends.
The dragon attacks her castle and carries away her prince after burning all of Elizabeth’s clothes! Do you hear a “Hey, but she is the princess! Why didn’t the dragon carry her away?” from your young reader? Exactly the same response I get every time I read that page in my groups!
Elizabeth is not one to sit back and take it. So she wears the only thing that isn’t burnt, a paper bag, and off she goes to rescue her prince! Elizabeth follows the trail of burnt forests to reach the dragon’s castle. When she knocks on the door, the dragon says that he is too full from eating a whole castle. Would she please go back and come again another day?
The intrepid Elizabeth thinks up a way to rescue her prince without having to fight the dragon. The vain dragon shows off to answer Elizabeth’s tricky questions and falls exhausted. After checking to see if the dragon is truly asleep, Elizabeth sets her prince free.
Unfortunately, the Prince does not follow protocol and swoon at her feet. He does not even thank her for rescuing him. Instead, he criticizes her appearance, paper bag dress, messy hair and all! Oops! She was not princess enough for him!
I am always prepared for shocked silence in the audience when Elizabeth calls him a bum! “She called him a bad word!” opens up conversations on whether she was justified in calling him names, gender stereotypes and how we feel when our preconceived notions are challenged. The wonderful thing is that as they think about why she called him a bum every group I’ve read to cheers Elizabeth in the end! The children leave with an extremely satisfied look. The Paper Bag Princess is probably one of the few books where name calling is justified and accepted by kids.
The paper bag Princess is a must for little girls and boys! Elizabeth does not exactly wait for the problem to resolve nor is she afraid of appearing ‘not at her best.’ She is resourceful and thinks on her feet. Nor is she afraid to recognize what she sees in the prince’s bad behavior.
The illustrations show the action and emotions of the characters very well.
Here’s a youtube video of a read aloud of this book:
This link is for an animated two part series based on the story. It assimilates other fairy tales into the story. Look for the twist at the end!