by Shirin Yim Bridges

Goosebottom Books, $18.95,  24 pages

What do princesses do? I think most would say: wear beautiful dresses, wave to the crowds, and ride in horse drawn carriages. Enjoying the excitement of the recent Royal Wedding in England, it is easy to overlook the fact that many princesses did much more than look pretty. The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses series tells us the little known stories of what happened after the parades and parties.

Each of these six books traces the reign of a princess who reigned between 1500 BC and 1600 AD: Hatshepsut of Egypt, Artemesia of Caria, Sorghaghtani of Mongolia, Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman, Isabella of Castile, and Nur Jahan of India. Each book traces the story of the princess’s reign ad influence on history as well as describing the culture of the time: where she lived, what she wore, what she ate, and who she married. The books contain illustrations, photographs and maps that help bring the women to life. The many references and comparisons to other princesses and time periods in the series make each story easier to understand while encouraging you to read the other books. The stories are divided into sections making the books easy and fun to read.

At first glance you might assume these books are just for girls. But both boys and girls will be interested in this series as they make the connection between these princesses and other well-known names and places in history: Genghis Khan, King Tut, Christopher Columbus, the Taj Mahal. It’s amazing how these women had influence not only in their own lifetime but throughout history. Although they would serve primarily as a history lesson, these books could also be the starting point for conversations about equality, religion, exploration, charity, art, and many other topics. Adults should be ready to explain the varying beliefs of these time periods, especially the widely different ideas concerning marriage not for love unions but for monetary and political unions.

Although these books could be very dry history books, Bridges adds enough personal details, emotional revelations and even humor to make them enjoyable to read. Even those not particularly interested in royalty will find the series fascinating…the royal intrigues, plots, and scandals are sometimes hard to believe as true!

Reviewed by Jodi M. Webb