• Picturebook Snob

Kindness rules in this fabulous fairy tale

Princess Swashbuckle by Hollie Hughes and Deborah Allwright, Bloomsbury

"Once upon a time in a faraway land and place, there lived a frog princess with a green and slimy face..."

What's it about?

Swashbuckle is a princess and a frog who longs for a life on the ocean waves. The king and queen consider marriage the only appropriate aspiration for Princess Swashbuckle. Frustrated by her parents' frantic attempts to find her a suiter, and the limits to her freedom that matrimony would entail, Swashbuckle runs away.

Princess Swashbuckle fulfils her dreams and becomes captain of a pirate ship. Instead of terrorising the seas, she and her crew do only good deeds. Princess Swashbuckle spreads kindness wherever she goes and helps every creature she meets, in this delightful and inspiring story.

What can we learn?

Kindness rules and it's important to be accepting and supportive of those we love. Always follow your heart, especially if someone tries to marry you off to a toad!

What makes this stand out? This is a refreshing and original fairy tale for modern times. Each page exudes joy and fun. The cheerful creatures that feature in the story are adorable and their happiness is contagious. Princess Swashbuckle is a wonderful character; her compassion and fierce independence make her an excellent role model. The jaunty rhyming text is a pleasure to read aloud and the illustrations are beautiful.

About those illustrations...

Deborah Allwright is one of our favourite illustrators and her work is always full of charming details and charged with humour. The gorgeous illustrations create a convincing storybook world. They have a lovely energy, a gentle colour palette and a comforting, fairy tale quality.

I love how the pirate ship looks like a whale!

Why we love it...

I love how it squashes stereotypes about gender, princesses and even pirates. It's fantastic how unafraid Princess Swashbuckle is of being unconventional and challenging tradtitions. I love how she never has to compromise or kiss any frogs to get what she wants.

It's great to see her reconcile with her family on her own terms. It's brilliant how altruistic the story's conclusion is; it has nothing to do with marriage and stresses that EVERYONE in Frogland lives "happily ever after." If you're interested in learning about real-life pirate queens, here's a list of five notorious female pirates which includes Granuaile from Ireland.

Why you need it...

This is a remarkable story and the perfect antidote to more traditional tales of insipid princesses possessing little agency and even less ambition. Princess Swashbuckle overcomes obstacles to achieve her goals, is a positive force who brings about change, and shows children they are capable of doing the same.

It looks like plastic pollution is even a problem in the oceans that surround Frogland

About the author:

Hollie Hughes writes short stories and plays for grown-up readers as well as picture books for children. Her most recent picture book, The Girl and the Dinosaur, illustrated by Sarah Massini, was the winner of the of the Wordery's Picture Book of the Year Award 2020. We just got this recently and love it - review coming soon!

About the illustrator:

Deborah Allwright began illustrating as a child, has worked on more than 40 picture books and has won several awards. Deborah illustrated many of our favourite books, including another feminist masterpiece, She Rex by Michelle Robinson (read a review) and the hilarious There is No Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter (read a review).

Princess Swashbuckle was published by Bloomsbury in 2018 - see this book on the publisher's website

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