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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Little girls love to play dress-up, especially if dress-up includes a beautiful gown that makes them look like a princess. Zoe’s best friend, Kaitlyn, has the prettiest princess gown. Although the two girls love playing dress-up at Kaitlyn’s house, Zoe is never allowed to wear the princess gown. Kaitlyn claims that it’s because Zoe doesn’t look like a princess because her skin’s the wrong color. Only white girls can be princesses. You see, Kaitlyn is white and Zoe is dark-skinned. This upsets Zoe, but her parents set her straight, pointing out that history has recorded a long list of beautiful black African queens and princesses. They make a family visit to Kaitlyn’s family and share this information. The best part is the beautiful African princess gown they present to Zoe so she can be a princess, too. Because every little girl is a princess.
Valene Campbell’s picture book story, The Amazing Zoe: A Queen Like Me, is a powerful story, not only about differences but also how differences do not restrict our powers to be whatever we want to be, to be as beautiful a person as we want to be, like a princess. It’s also a story about the power of friendship and how education, presented in a kind and caring manner like Zoe’s parents do when they visit Kaitlyn’s parents, is the best approach to peacefully explain how differences can make us stronger in so many ways, but these differences don’t define our abilities or what we really are deep down. The plot develops through the girls’ friendship, the sad discord over who can and cannot be a princess, and the clever way Zoe’s parents deal with a difficult misunderstanding caused by inadequate education on the topic of royalty in all cultures. The illustrations, sometimes with bubbles to emphasize specific points of conversation, help develop the story. The characters are realistically presented, as is the situation between the two best friends. This is a beautiful story told with care and compassion, including the interesting historical list of African royalty – fascinating.