There are tons of them out there - princesses are apparently enjoying a huge following among preschool and elementary-age girls (and have been for some time). The main reason I picked up this one was the author: Cornelia Funke, whose work I always enjoy. Plus the illustrations are cheerful and cartoony in the sort of style that tends to appeal to my children.
The theme is nothing new: a princess becomes sick and tired of having everything done for her and never being able to do anything herself. Princess Isabella's footman blows her nose for her; her ladies-in-waiting curl her hair (which takes forever), and she's made to stand smiling sweetly for hours on end. One day Isabella has had enough. She throws a fit, tossing her crown into the fishpond. "Being a princess is boring!" she cries. She refuses to retrieve her crown, even when her father the king commands her to. So he sentences her to work in the kitchen until she decides to change her mind. But instead of finding kitchen work a punishment, Isabella discovers that it's fun and interesting. She learns things she never knew before, and when her father finally sends for her, she fills him in on them. "Did you know that cream is made from milk?" she asks. No, he didn't. And when he asks her to fetch her crown and she again refuses, it's off to the pigsty for her. And of course, the pigsty is a fun and interesting place, too!
The end of the book is very sweet - the king's love for his daughter and desire for her to be happy reign. Funke has taken a common theme and presented it in a compelling, heartwarming way, which is nicely complemented by Kerstin Meyer's whimsical illustrations. Princess Isabella is feisty, courageous, and a hard worker - not a bad role model, especially for a storybook princess.
Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, translated by Chantal Wright (Chicken House: 2007)