The Paper Bag Princess

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This charming story reverses the typical roles within a children’s book. With underlying issues of stereotypes, independence and empowerment, it fills children with imagination and teaches them the importance of being strong, smart, and the realization that beauty comes from within. A prince is kidnapped by a dangerous dragon, as the dragon’s fiery breath burns up all the clothes in the palace the princess who loves the prince is left with only finding a paper bag to wear as she goes to rescue her love. By cleverly tricking the dragon, she enters the cave where the prince, still beautifully dressed, is held captive.

She recues him, and is true love rewarded? No! The prince complains that she is a disaster, badly dressed, dirty and all messed up. She replies that he is a fine and handsome prince, but completely useless. And, in the end, they didn’t marry after all. This story touches upon great teaching points within today’s classroom and how we can use such books to engage and teach students and learn about stereotypes and that everyone is equal, teaching them about appreciation and that sometimes things do not turn out as always expected but to be persistent and strong.

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This story involves a female protagonist, who is smart, strong and resourceful. A reverse of the typical prince rescues a princess. At first this book may seem to relate better to females, but at a second glance you can begin to see that it is universal and relate to all children alike, whether it is boys or girls. All children can relate to the topics involved, even boys without having a male protagonist to relate to because the message it conveys is a universal on, which is that anyone can be strong if they put their mind to it.

Though this story may seem to be about the empowerment of girls, boys too can learn to understand that we now live in a society where everyone is equal and have the same opportunities. Regardless of one’s sex, race or religion, we have the same rights and opportunities as one another. No one is better or worse than the other, as the princess demonstrates by being the one to overcome adversity and being able to still hold her head up high at the end of the story. In tying in with the role reversal of prince rescues princess, this book lso illustrates the importance of appreciating what you have. The princess was beautiful, she lived in a castle, had expensive clothes, and pretty much everything she could ask for. Until it was all taken away and she was left with nothing but a paper bag. Appreciating what you have, was shown after the princess had saved the prince from the fire breathing dragon. With his show of appreciation or lack thereof the prince states that he cannot marry the princess because she was a mess, she smelt like ashes, her hair was all tangled, and to top it off she was wearing a dirty old paper bag.

Even after the strength that the princess has shown by being able to save her prince, he was still unable to look within and see that the princess had beauty within even though she had nothing left. Although the princess lost most of her possession, she did not lose her sense of character. This story teaches children that being any richer or poorer shouldn’t ultimately decide what type of person you are, but it is more of what you do that defines your character. It also gives them an understanding that it sometimes takes a tough situation to really discover oneself and to also discover others in the process.

By using children’s books in the classroom to help teach students understand and learn, we must take a look at what type of children’s books are out there what we are choosing to introduce to the classroom? With the majority of children’s books today ending with a Disney like, fairy tale ending, “The Paper Bag Princess” ends unexpectedly, with the princess walking happily into the sunset by herself. Even though the story ends with an unusual twist, as the prince and princess don’t marry and live happily ever after.

Its message is still strong and clear, that if someone isn’t nice and appreciative to you, it is not worth it and to move on. The message is clear and evident, to be strong, brave and resourceful and to accept one for whom they are, as the princess shows her strength and independence, by being able to walk away merrily into the sunset without a care in the world. Demonstrating that not all stories end the way we expect them to and that sometimes an unexpected ending can be just as satisfying. Regardless of a students’ gender by the end of the story, this book does all the right things in teaching children about stereotypes, and finding ne’s self esteem, learning to accept themselves for who they are, and to recognize their strengths. It also teaches them that in life many things may not turn out the way you want it to, but that it is ok and dealing with it will only make you stronger. Robert Munsch’s, “The Paper Bag Princess” is an empowering and uplifting story about a strong princess and an unworthy prince, and highly recommended to help introduce students to issues about stereotypes, equality, appreciation for oneself and others, and to use difficult situations as a stepping stone for learning and growing within today’s society.


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