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Review: The Paper Bag Princess

by Call Me Les about a year ago in book reviews · updated 11 months ago
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Before Anna and Frozen, we had Elizabeth.

Watch world-renowned storyteller Robert Munsch perform The Paper Bag Princess.

Robert N. Munsch and Michael Martchenko are a world-renowned children's literature powerhouse team. A glance through their website will show you a list of diverse books spanning a multiple decades long career.

New to Munsch? Some of his best titles (and my personal favourites) include:

  • Millicent and the Wind
  • Mortimer
  • 50 Below Zero
  • Murmel Murmel Murmel
  • Purple, Green and Yellow

Laced with alliteration and onomatopoeias, these books are the stuff of every read-aloud-storyteller's dreams. Add in the visuals, and your kids will be glued to the pages for years.

But my anytime-of-day favourite, The Paper Bag Princess, has a hidden meaning I didn't understand as a child, but nevertheless transmitted a valuable lesson. Inside the beautifully cartoonish gem, is a powerful piece feminism that encourages young girls to put themselves first instead of true love. Long before Anna from Frozen, the girls of the '80s & '90s had Elizabeth the Paper Bag Princess: an aptly named allegory to the royal figure of the 16th C by the same name who also didn't need a husband to be a queen!

The basic plot is as follows:

Like Anna, Elizabeth is set to marry a polished Prince she barely knows, but before she can tie the knot, a dragon swoops in, steals the groom and decimates the castle with his fiery breath.

Note to self: if literature and life as a waitress have taught me anything, make sure you hire a good bouncer at your wedding!

Poor Elizabeth's castle, along with everything she owns—including her clothes—are burnt to a crisp. Not one to sit and cry, however, she bravely decides to follow the trail of burnt forest and horses' bones and steal her man back! But, without anything decent to wear (or time to spare), Elizabeth slaps on the nearest thing she can find that resembles a dress: a paper bag.

She marches to the dragon's keep, and after some well thought up trickery, wears out the dragon without lifting a finger. Forget pens and swords; all a woman really needs is words. But instead of being grateful, let alone amazed, the spoiled brat of a Prince focuses on her dishevelled appearance!

"Elizabeth, you are a mess! You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled, and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess."

Elizabeth responds with a fierce feminist retort for the ages,

"Ronald . . . you clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a BUM."

As you might have guessed, Elizabeth does the only sensible thing to do when we discover our love is being taken advantage of and moves on with her life, leaving the perfect boy-toy behind as she dances off into the sunset—in all her paper bag wearin' glory.

Dear fellow Xenninials,

If you've forgotten about this book, take my advice and put all things Frozen on ice for a while. Head over to your nearest bookstore and purchase a copy of The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Then take it home and read it aloud to all your kids—regardless of their gender—and demonstrate that when we get taken for granted in a relationship, slap on whatever you can find and get the heck out of there. Time is more important than things, and self-esteem matters more than external validation. Like a subtly flavoured chicken and rice dish, this book pleases all kids' palates.

For a true crowd-pleaser that saves money, try this recipe for a healthy baked version of popcorn chicken by Ciara Atwell from my fussyeater.com.

Healthy popcorn chicken by Ciara Atwell. https://www.myfussyeater.com/popcorn-chicken/

RECIPE

Prep Time: 15 mins Cook Time: 15 mins Yield: 5-6 1x Category: Dinner Cuisine: American

DESCRIPTION

Popcorn Chicken makes a really delicious and fun dinner for kids. My recipe is baked to keep it super healthy but still really crispy thanks to the Rice Krispie coating!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 100g / 3 cups rice krispies
  • 40g / 1 & 1/2 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp milk

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c / 390f and line two baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Chop the chicken breasts into small bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
  3. Blitz the Rice Krispies, parmesan, oregano and garlic powder in a food processor. Once well mixed, add the olive oil and blitz again then spread the krispie mixture onto a plate.
  4. Beat the eggs and milk in a bowl
  5. Dip the chicken pieces into the egg and then transfer to the plate and coat with the krispie mixture. You can do approximately 6-8 pieces at a time.
  6. Place the coated chicken pieces onto the baking trays and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
  7. Serve immediately with some chopped vegetables and a dip. You could also serve them with some chips or potato wedges.

NOTES

This Popcorn Chicken is best eaten immediately after cooking. It can be frozen but it is best to freeze it before cooking. Freeze on a tray or large plate in a single layer and once frozen transfer to a freezer bag or container. Bake from frozen but add a few extra minutes to the cooking time to ensure they are fully cooked through.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks Rob, for being a feminist ally before the term was coined!

For more writing celebrating the power and perseverance of women, check out:

Selkies are believed to abandon their mortal children when they find their magic sealskin which their 'husband' has hidden from them to stop their stolen 'bride' from returning to the ocean. But no loving mother, mortal or otherwise, would willingly abandon her child. What follows is a tale from the other perspective: that of a woman who has escaped her abusive 'spouse' to make a new life, and only leaves her child upon risk of recapture.

You can connect with Les on Instagram.

Cheers, folks!

And remember, it's always "better to be happy than dignified."—Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

Owl has hatched!

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book reviews

About the author

Call Me Les

She/her | Cat enthusiast | "Word-Nerd" | Fueled by buttertarts

  • Co-Founding admin at Vocal Social Society & Great Incantations
  • Co-Founder of the Vocal Creators Chronicle
  • Vocal Spotlight
  • Book: Owl in a Towel

~&~

No words left unspoken.

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