________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 12 . . . . February 15, 2002

cover To Be a Princess: The Fascinating Lives of Real Princesses.

Hugh Brewster and Laurie Coulter. Illustrated by Laurie McGaw.
Markham, ON: Scholastic/Madison Press Books, 2001.
62 pp., pbk. & cloth, $ (pbk.), $22.99 (cl.).
ISBN 0-439-98729-6 (pbk.), ISBN 0-439-98728-8 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Princesses-Europe-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Princesses-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Helen Norrie.

*** /4

To Be a Princess, which recounts the stories of twelve royal princesses, covers a period from 1516 to the present. It clearly demonstrates that the lives of princesses are not all jewels and honors---most of the women described encountered onerous duties, hardships, and, in some cases, assassination. Their lives are told in clear, simple language and, in cases where she became queen, each princess's story is followed by a chart showing important dates that took place during her reign.

     One interesting feature of this book is that it includes four stories from outside the British Isles: from Hawaii, India, Russia and France. The account of Gayatri "Ayesha" Devi of India, who married the maharaja of Jaipur and later became the first maharani to obtain a seat in the country's parliament, is particularly interesting, since her story is not well known. Also of note is the life of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawaii who was prevented from becoming queen when Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1897. Details of the lives of Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, Victoria, of Marie Antoinette, the daughters of the Tsar and of Elizabeth II and her sister Margaret are more familiar but are told in an informative and highly readable manner.

     The illustrations in To Be a Princess are specially worth mentioning. Besides a large number of historical photographs, Toronto artist Laurie McGaw has produced a full page painting of each of the women studied showing her as she would have appeared as a young woman. The picture of Elizabeth I is particularly attractive.

     While the authors take pains to tell of the drawbacks of royal life, many young readers will still find the details of these lives appealing. To Be a Princess is a well designed, lavishly illustrated volume that is good value for the money.


Helen Norrie is the Children's Book Columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and an instructor in children's literature at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364