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Princess Power Prevails: A classic storyline with new twists
The Classic Tale
In all classic fairy tales, there is a prince, a princess, an evil being, and a rescue. In most stories the Princess is a damsel in distress waiting for her Prince to arrive and rescue her from captivity from some evil witch, villain, or horrible monster. As the Princess sits in her room, locked away from the world, she is often providing some sort of menial task for her kidnapper. Now don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of the classics, princesses in distress in all. I won't pick apart the false reality that they provide our girls at such a young age (women need to be rescued by men, when your prince arrives you will live happily ever after, etc.). I'll just encourage you to share with your daughters that girls can do anything on their own too. Wouldn't it be great if there were a book to help with that? Oh wait, there is!
Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude
When my school decided to change our reading program to a readers workshop model, we ordered hundreds of books for our classrooms. The selections ranged from those that we were very familiar with to those that were new to us but that children would probably enjoy, along with classics and classics with a twist. Among those stories was Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude. With a title like that I figured that it was a modern version of a princess rescue, this time with the princess being whisked away on a motorcycle to her prince's high rise penthouse in New York. Little did I know that I was in for such a surprise.
I'll admit that I was intrigued. The first thing that caught my eye was the font in the title. It wasn't restricted to one type but was very deliberately both fancy and bold. As I read the name of the author and illustrator, my curiosity was further piqued. One author, but three illustrators? This was sure to delight my students.
In the beginning
As I turned and read the first few pages, I knew that this was no classic fairytale. The story begins with two typical school aged children who are given an assignment to report on their favorite fairytale. When they disagree about which fairytale is their favorite, they decide to take a crack at writing their own. The girl begins with the standard, a princess happily living in a castle and then being upset when her beautiful ponies with very girly names, are stolen by the giant. Throughout the story, the children are placed at the bottom of the page with dialogue balloons. The boy continues to comment about his disgust for telling such a girly tale and he decides to add his two cents.
As the tale shifts two things happen, first the text font changes. What was once a classic, royal type of font now shifts to bold, strong font. The second is the illustrations. No longer are they bright colors with beautiful, 'feel good' pictures. They have now become dark colors with very cartoon like images that are bold and powerful. Here is where the young boy takes over the story.
Motorcycle Dude Rides In
In his contribution to the story, the boy creates the motorcycle dude to come in and protects the last of the Princess's ponies, Buttercup. In exchange for his services, the Princess is to spin straw into gold thread for him and he becomes rich. This is where the story ends. Sort of. The dialogue continues between the two kids and an argument ensues. The girl is not happy that the princess is left to this fate while the motorcycle dude gets rich. She decides that princess power is in order. Her sad and bewildered princess now becomes Princess Warrior. She tells the dude to spin his own thread and sets off to fight the giant. Well of course this doesn't sit well with the boy so he gets in on the action.
The ponies are saved!
As the story comes to an end, the two combine forces to defeat the giant and bring him to his final resting place. With high fives and cheers, the two kids continue to end the story. Ah, but back to the differences between boys and girls. She wants them to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after with a baby while he is disgusted my the whole scenario.
Once Upon A Cool Dude in a Motorcycle written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley and illustrated by Carol Heyer and Scott Goto is a great way for parents and teachers to provide an alternate view to the classic fairy tale. There are lots of lessons embedded in this story. One of empowerment for the princess and working together as a team. If you check your local libraries or bookstores, you will find that there are many fairy tales that are written from an alternate perspective or with different ending. It is a great learning tool to compare variety of these stories to see how one small change can completely change the outcome of a story.