Twenty-Six Princesses / Twenty-Six Pirates by Dave Horowitz

Books about pirates/princesses are almost a cliche, but the author has astutely chosen to use these personas only as a general thematic cover for two rather original alphabet books: Twenty-Six Princesses and Twenty-Six Pirates.

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As the titles imply, each book features 26 characters, who have names beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, and who are given a short and snappy description that rhymes with their names β€” for instance, “Pirate Quaid. Not Afraid” and “Princess Pearl. The Littlest Girl”.

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Although these books do feature the alphabet, they are most effective for kids who are already familiar with letters, since their focus isn’t on teaching the alphabet. Neither, for that matter, are the books truly about real pirates or princesses. And therein lies their genius: in spite of the adorable ‘window-dressing’, what the books are really about is kids, in all their wild and wacky glory (likely inspired by how most of them enjoy playing dress-up, but often don’t behave the part!).

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So, we see little pirates who’re up to various monkey businesses or crying for their moms, and unladylike princesses who are terrorising the palace guards or throwing a tantrum, etc. In other words, standard kid behaviour. It also helps that the material is presented in a way that is not only funny and relatable to the kids, but also gets them to reflect on their own actions in retrospect. Each page is also devoted to a different letter/character, so the humorous details in the illustrations are not lost.

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While there will be people griping about the fact that there are no girls in the Pirates book, in this case the author probably just meant to create an all-boy companion for the all-girl book of princesses. Plus, honestly, both books appeal equally to boys and girls precisely because they help to overthrow the stereotypical images of swashbuckling pirates and dainty princesses β€” and that can’t be a bad thing at all.

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