Sofia the First is currently a popular children’s show on Disney Junior. According to Disneyjunior.com, the series tells the story of Sofia who becomes the princess of Enchancia when her mother marries the king. She goes on many different adventures, and different Disney princesses join her along the way. I was not aware of the television series before reading this book, but knowing that it is based on a tv series makes a lot of sense. There is not much initial character development because the readers already know Sofia!
Sofia the First Princesses to the Rescue is by Catherine Hapka and is illustrated by Grace Lee. This particular book tells the story of what happens when Sofia’s family goes to visit the kingdom of Wei-Ling. Her brother and Prince Jin of Wei-Ling find a treasure map, and they run off to find the treasure. Emperor Quon of Wei-Ling becomes distressed when he discovers the boys’ plan because a jaguar guards the cave where the treasure is. The fathers run after the boys and tell the princesses to stay behind. The girls follow their fathers and almost give up when they face some roadblocks. However, they run into Mulan, and she tells them that they are stronger than they know and that they can get past anything if they want to do it.
The girls find the cave and end up saving their families who were trapped by the jaguar. The book ends with a fireworks show celebrating the rescue.
This book does a really great job of defying gender stereotypes. The princesses are ultimately the heroes in the story and are not simply damsels in distress like we often see in princess tales. There are not even any potential love interests! I have personally always loved the character of Mulan because I believe she really defies the idea of what a girl should be. However, I feel like the story of Mulan is appropriate for six-year-olds and up because of some of the violent moments. Sofia the First is geared toward three to five-year-olds, and I love that these younger girls will feel empowered by this book.
The book also includes diversity; Sofia’s family goes to visit an Asian kingdom. I love that Hapka portrays Jun, the Asian princess, in such a positive light. Without her, the girls could not cross the lizard pond, which illustrates the fact that we all have gifts and talents that others do not. However, Hapka portrays the princesses slightly stereotypically in terms of race. Amber, Sofia’s sister, tries to fight off the lizards with her fan, but Jun tries an Asian flute. Jun also carries fans, but they are very different than Amber and Sofia’s. Although Princess Jun appears to be slightly stereotyped, Mulan is a princess that is viewed as a warrior. While Hapka’s created characters may fall under racial stereotypes, she incorporates other well-known characters who do not.
The illustrations in this book are absolutely incredible! I personally think they are even more beautiful than the Disney animations. The colors are vibrant and full, and looking at the pictures makes me want to visit the fictional kingdom of Wei-Ling. The text falls in the middle of the pictures, which really helps the readers feel involved in the story.
I think this book tells a great story of empowerment for preschool and young elementary school girls. The story may not be very interesting for adults to read, but I think anyone can be captivated by the pictures of Wei-Ling. I think that any young girl will love reading the Sofia the First books.
By: Emily Barker