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Princess Florizella by Philippa Gregory

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This cheery book upends traditional princessy ideas with a not-very-pretty, not-at-all-precious heroine, who’s already got a kingdom (well, she will do) and a castle of her own, thank you. She’s got plenty of liberal, unfeudal, feminist ideas and isn’t in any rush to get married, even to a very nice prince. Entwined within a rollicking tale that includes the required elements of choose-a-bride ball, romantic picnic, attempted rescue from high windows (Florizella climbs down herself) and galloping to a real rescue from a dragon (about to eat the Prince) are some excellent points about it being important to be good company, practical and kind, and considerably less important to be well groomed.

Apparently, I read it none too soon to my almost-five-year-old daughter, who squeaked with Disney-induced excitement and sighed with undue happiness when the Prince proposed (only to be refused). The illustrations are minimal line drawings that failed to thrill my daughter, but the hilarious, heartwarming tale stands alone. Philippa Gregory, as I recall fondly, has written some other tales for children, perhaps for older readers.