Princess goes from misfit to superheroine

gp_tenten_coverhardPRINT.pdfPrincess TenTen and the Dark Skies
By Setsu Shigematsu, illustrated by A. Das (Corona, Calif.: Guardian Princess Alliance, 2014, 38 pp., retail price $14.99; special GPA price $12.99 paperback)

This fourth book in the Guardian Princesses series shows us how a princess who feels herself a misfit becomes a superheroine. Young Ten Ten is interested in martial arts, but girls are not allowed to learn. Master Yun notices how Ten Ten watches the boys practice Tiandao (pronounced Tee-ahn-DOW), then copies the forms by herself outside the temple. Realizing that she has potential, he asks her mother, Lady Mina, for permission to teach Ten Ten the kicks, blocks and strikes she wishes to learn.

“From a young age, Princess Ten Ten did not act like the other girls…and she did not fit in with the girls or the boys. Other children of the court would make fun of her and call her names because she was different.”

Feeling alienated, Ten Ten hopes that martial arts will enable her to seek revenge, but the master cautions her by saying her skills must be used only for self-defense and to protect others.

When her father, King Wu, tells Ten Ten he is ashamed of her masculine attire and behavior, she is bereft. Her mother decides to send Ten Ten away from the court to live in the mountains with her grandmother. With the guidance of her grandmother, Ten Ten’s childhood improves and she learns to accept herself. When she returns to the court to visit her parents, she discovers that her father has begun mining coal and processing it in air-polluting factories upon the advice of evil Li-Shu. This has turned the skies gray and caused illness among the people, including her mother and two of her contemporaries who taunted her when they were children. Now they approach her to ask for help.

Ten Ten recalls Master Yun saying she must use her strength to protect others. She knows what she must do to shut down the polluting factories and restore the health of her mother and others. Super Princess emerges! She climbs a watchtower and kicks out the window to confront the evil boss

Li-Shu, who has locked the workers in the factory. Li Shu flees.

Ten Ten’s chant is, “The way of the heavens and the path of the wind, Be our source of energy, let us rise up and begin.” Crowds of chanting people storm the factory doors and free the workers. Ten Ten floats in the air, spinning balls of wind that create a small tornado.

The noise of the crowd increases the wind energy, and the tornado begins to suck the smog and smoke into its center, leaving the air clean and clear.

The king can now think more clearly, and he sees that his reliance on his advisor Li-Shu has caused the people to suffer. Li-Shu is arrested, the king apologizes to the people, and offers to abdicate the throne to his daughter Ten Ten. She declines the throne, saying one day in the future she will rule the country. Her martial arts master appears in the crowd and announces that since Ten Ten has saved her countrymen and the skies above, she will be the Guardian of the Skies, working to protect the air for nations worldwide.

The story ends with the royal family celebrating the Moon Festival.  The final illustration shows Ten Ten looking regal in an elegant, gleaming pantsuit with her grandmother, father, and mother beside her. The many illustrations resemble animated cartoons. They are colorful, sharp  and plentiful.

This fairy tale does indeed follow the mission statement of the publishers, the Guardian Princess Alliance. The GPA seeks to create role better models for children by featuring superheroines who show “compassion and intelligence and demonstrate the power of knowledge and collective action. The stories promote racial, cultural, and gender diversity.”

This book includes a glossary, an etymology chart, a picture to color, two suggestions for activities, the Guardian Princess pledge and Common Core Discussion Questions.

I have not read the first three books in the Guardian Princesses series: “Princess Terra and King Abbadon,” “Princess Vinnea and the Gulavores,” “Princess Mariana and Lixo Island.” I did read a little about the author, Setsu Shigematsu, a professor at UC Riverside. As a mom she discovered that her daughter was fascinated by Disney princesses. Not wanting her daughter to grow up emulating princesses whose identity revolves primarily around how they look, not what they do, Shigematsu wrote a story for her daughter about a princess action heroine. She hired an actress to read the story at her daughter’s birthday party. Other moms in attendance urged her to publish the story, and that is how the Guardian Princess Alliance was born. In keeping with the GPA’s  goal of promoting diversity, each princess comes from a different part of the world, and solves a problem by utilizing both her intellect and her ability to enlist the help of others for the common good. If you fear your daughter or granddaughter has fallen into a mindless princess trap, you might want to give this book a try.

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