If you are hoping to become a princess, but don’t necessarily want to marry a prince, there is plenty of guidance these days available in the picture book sections of your average store. Quite a few of these titles appear to have been hastily assembled out of stardust and exclamation marks left over from Fancy Nancy’s latest incarnation. What was eye-catching a couple of years ago now blends in so seamlessly with its environment, you wonder if the next logical step isn’t repainting the shelves a drabber shade, or maybe eliminating pictures altogether. Oh wait, that is the next step. Onward and upward with chapter books then! Is it really any wonder we’re in such a hurry?
“A princess can be pretty in pink, green or red,” reads one synopsis, only marginally less expansive than the text, and more or less describing the entire genre, “in jeans or a dress, with either boots or high heels, defend her castle or dance at the ball, because she is an incredible girl!”
To summarize: not born into royalty, but incredible-ness. And incredible people can be royal whenever they want. Which does sound optimistic and democratic and all that, only I kind of hate to picture what lies on the other side of all that self-determination.
And anyway, isn’t there some livelier outlet for our good old American dreaminess? Like how about:
“One day, curious Jane wondered where eggs come from….”
Then - look! A girl in the chicken coop! (Where did all the boys get off to? Coloring in their Pirate Activity Books?) Me… Jane is the fully knowing title of Patrick McDonnell’s story about a young Jane Goodall rummaging around in nature with her stuffed chimpanzee (true – she still keeps the toy on her mantel), and relishing Tarzan, and jotting nature journal entries (originals – one documenting her “Aligator Society” – are included in these pages), though here I’ll confess that it could have been just about anything leading up to the real life miracle of Jane Goodall and I’d probably have been moved to tears.
See Jane climb. See Jane exploring. See Jane write: “We cannot live through a single day without making an impact on the world around us – and we have a choice as to what sort of difference we make.”
This last is a part of the epilogue accompanying what is apparently a recent headshot of the now legendary primatologist, anthropologist, conservationist, trailblazer, mother… Oh, happy Mother’s Day everyone! I wonder how many days it will take after the royal wedding before most of those princesses are briefly replaced with beatifically moon-faced moms. Then what comes next after that? In this age of often borrowed expectations, maybe it is stories about dreaming, then actually becoming, which need to stick around.