Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, pictures by Stevie Lewis AND Maiden & Princess by Daniel Haack & Isabel Galupo, art by Becca Human
Prince & Knight
by Daniel Haack
pictures by Stevie Lewis
Published by Little Bee Books
Maiden & Princess
by Daniel Haack & Isabel Galupo
art by Becca Human
Published by Little Bee Books
Purchased with grant funding for my library
With Prince & Knight and Maiden & Princess, Daniel Haack (and coauthor of Maiden & Princess, Isabel Galupo) takes on the challenge of creating the first mainstream, queer fairy-tale picture books for kids. And they are in rhyme! I have very high standards for a rhyming picture book (Dr. Seuss? No. Bill Peet? YES) and I am happy to share that these groundbreaking books are equally well written, illustrated, inclusive and joyful. Love is love.
Set in two different kingdoms and with two very different illustration styles, both books tell the fairy tale story of a royal looking to wed. While presenting tropes that readers will be familiar with (castles and kingdoms, the search, a ball, dragons, battles) Haack (and Galupo) weave in modern ideas. In Prince & Knight, the king and queen know that "the prince could not rule alone," and they are looking for a "kind and worthy" bride (formerly beautiful and delicate) to share in this responsibility. And, in both books, there are princes seeking brides.
In Prince & Knight, which features perfectly Disney-esque illustrations that show echoes of the great Mary Blair, the search ends with disappointment, the prince telling the king and queen, "I appreciate that you tried, but I'm looking for something different in a partner by my side." The royal family returns to their kingdom to find it under attack from a flying dragon. Determined to protect his precious kingdom, the prince heads into battle, not knowing that a knight has also come to save the kingdom. Subduing the dragon on his own, the prince loses his grip and falls, only to find himself "caught and free from harm, held in the knight's embrace." And, in a dreamy moment worthy of any fairy tale,
The knight took off his helmet
to reveal his handsome face,
and as they gazed
into each other's eyes,
their hearts began to race.
The king and queen are overwhelmed with joy, saying, "We have finally found someone who is perfect for our boy!" Prince & Knight ends with a royal wedding, the air "filled with cheer and laughter, for the prince and his shining knight would live happily ever after."
Maiden & Princess begins with a similar trope: the king and queen are holding a ball to find a bride for their son. Everyone is beyond excitement, except for one young maiden who has fought by his side in battle. The bravest and smartest in the land, she knows that she is the perfect match for the prince. But, she also knows that she does not want a match with the prince. Even so, she lets her mother coax her into going to the ball. The revelers and the king and queen all insist she dance with the prince. Flustered, the maiden says with care, "Please pardon me, Your Majesties," and rushes onto the balcony for air. There, she meets a girl who takes her breath away. The two spend hours talking on the balcony, looking at the constellations, until the king and queen arrive, exclaiming, "there's our precious daughter. We've looked all over for you!" Stunned to know she has been falling for the princess, the king and queen, feeling "the magic in the air," agree that the women are the perfect pair.
They return to the ball where they share a dance and a kiss. They go on to fill their days with "books, laughter, and art," while riding, singing and practicing their battle moves. The book ends,
When the day finally came
to prove their love was true,
the maiden and the princess
happily said, "I do."
Human's traditional fairy tale kingdom with African elements lends an exciting element to this story. Reading both books side by side, it makes sense to me that both have the royal heirs initially looking for a heterosexual relationship. It does surprise me, a little, (but then it's not fair to expect these books to do all the heavy lifting for all the stereotypes out there...) that Prince & Knight features a romance that is sparked by a deadly battle, a heroic fight (and the revelation that under the armor, the knight is ruggedly handsome) and an exciting rescue while in Maiden & Princess the romance begins with getting to know each other on a balcony. Despite this, I still felt my heart swelling at the moment true love was discovered as I read each wonderful book.
Prince & Knight marks the first in a special partnership between GLAAD and Little Bee Books to promote LGBTQIA+ stories in children's literature with a promise to release four titles a year, across all genres, for children up to the age of 14. You can read more about it here.