All this month, we’ll be helping Children’s Hospital Los Angeles‘ Make March Matter campaign, which aims to raise over a million dollars in March alone for CHLA through the efforts of its corporate partners, among which we are proud to be numbered. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles sees over 528,000 patient visits annually, and is the top ranked pediatric hospital in California by US News & World Report. You can help Make March Matter by simply attending one of the many events or participating in one of the many initiatives being offered by CHLA’s partners (including our event on Saturday, March 17), all listed at www.makemarchmatter.org.
To help remind us all to Make March Matter to support children’s health, we’ll be focusing on kids’ comics and childhood favorites, because we firmly believe that escaping into literature is just as important in keeping children healthy and happy.
This month, I’m giving some love to the books that aim to bridge the gap between readers new and old. All-ages comics – the stories that live up to that idea in the literal sense, creating a story that will engage the young, the old, and everyone in-between. Last time, we took a look at Craig Thompson’s first graphic novel, Good-bye, Chunky Rice, which told the story of a turtle who yearned for something he never experienced, only to discover, upon leaving, he deeply missed everything he didn’t appreciate when he had the chance to. It was a nuanced story about loss and grief that I would’ve loved as a kid just as much – but maybe differently – as I love it now.
This time, we’re talking Princess Princess Ever After.
Published in 2016 by Oni Press, Princess Princess Ever After is a slim, hardcover graphic novel by Katie O’Neill. It’s one of those comics that, reading it in 2018, I wish was around when I was a kid – not even because I would have enjoyed it (though I’m sure I would have) but because, like Lumberjanes, I think it could’ve given narrative solace to kids who didn’t connect to stories about princess that always ended with them paired off with a prince. Instead, Princess Princess is about two princesses who reject their duties for very different reasons and then, over the course of their adventure, fall in love.
The lead characters are rooted in tropes that we’ve all seen before – tropes that are quickly, joyously subverted. Princess Amira is rebellious, and has no interest in the duties expected of royalty. Princess Sadie is trapped in a tower by a wicked family member with her pet. (In this case, an adorable and pudgy dragon.) I loved that we’re given these archetypal characters whose arcs proceed to completely break the mold. Amira takes on the role of a knight, searching for a princess of her own to save – but, without the training of a knight, she discovers that she’s being led by her heart and has quite a bit to learn about being a hero. Sadie, on the other hand, takes a different journey. She’s on the opposite end of the spectrum, in that she believes that she can’t be queen – a title rightfully hers – and only sees her power when she meets someone who can help her realize how awesome she is. It’s part-Tangled, part-Lumberjanes, and part-Guardians of the Galaxy – well, not really, but the most dangerous conflict of the book is resolved through dancing, which we absolutely need more of – and wears its big, warm heart on its sleeve.
One thing I think would have benefitted Princess Princess is more pages. It’s fun as is, giving readers a fast-paced and breezy adventure with problems resolved by intuition and empathy and (often) funny turns-of-events rather than combat or conflict, but I would’ve loved to have more time to get to know these characters. 46 pages of story was enough to make me care about them, and we even got to see brief glimpses of their backstories, but I feel like there is so much to mine here in the past, present, and future of Amira and Sadie. Even their journey away from the tower itself is so very brief, and I finished the volume wondering how much more nuanced it could be and how much more we could’ve learned about the characters with even just 20 more pages. In any case, I’ll hold out hope for a second volume. Princess Princess tells a story that I strongly believe in with likable characters that we can all root for, and I’d love to see it continue.
NEXT UP: An Aurora Grimeon Story: Will O’ The Wisp