Maybe it is an age bias, but children’s books these days are richer and more engaging than those of my youth. I think a large part of it is that the change in media has impacted children as much as it has adults – what entertains them needs to be flashy and have a sharper wit to keep them occupied, and not necessarily as dull and infantile as I remember many of the books of my youth being.
Thus tonight I picked up and read to my children a new book they had gotten from the library, The Worst Princess. The titular character is Princess Sue, a bored member of a royal family that is stuck in her tower awaiting adventure. Along comes her Prince, whose reputation is encouraging and who says the right things to woo the princess. They run off (as told in witty rhyme) and when they arrive at his castle, she is promptly told to resume her place as a good wife waiting for him to return from his adventures (which, is implied, are not quite that grand).
One day a dragon comes by the castle, and the princess and beast hit it off. After a lengthy discussion, they decide to team up and serve as foils to knights and warriors pretending to be brave. The implication is that through finding the adventure she wants, and doing so in a non-traditional way, Sue gained the freedom she sought and deserved.
The feminist interpretations of the book are unmistakable, but what caught my attention is Sue’s problem solving. She is in a pickle – she has chosen a path society sets out for her which ends up being a never-ending trap of boredom. To resolve the situation, however, she courts an unlikely ally (the dragon) to find a common goal and work towards it together.
The lesson from the story reminded me of the boardroom or workplace, where sometimes we can feel trapped in a rut in our job. We want more, or just something different, but instead we take the path expected of us in order to find some relief. That path may be a promotion to a job not of your liking, or you doubling down on your current responsibilities because challenging yourself or another coworker is too hard. Instead, the key may be taking a look at the situation in another light, free of the trappings of pre-conceived notions and prejudices. Maybe the promotion isn’t the answer, but transferring to a whole new department is. Instead of grumbling and getting lost in your work, the answer is creating new opportunities to impress in an area considered off-limits.
It is entirely possible I am over-analyzing a kids’ book, but I am glad my kids have the opportunity to hear a story where smart, different thinking saves the day. Maybe they can apply that same lesson in their own careers.