Motorcycle Granny Goes to Pre-School
by Carmela Parker

I take my grand-twins Ryan and Liah (pictured at right) to pre-school 3 days a week and the school hasan open invitation to family members to read to the children at story time. When I offered to do so in November 2009, theirteacher asked me what I'd like to read. 

Without hesitation I chose my favorite fairytale, "Princess Smartypants" by Babette Cole. Written almost 20 years ago, it was one of the first "gender equity" stories for girls who had until then been raised on stories of the helpless princess who was pretty much useless and had to be rescued by the brave prince, and which always ended with marriage to this prince promising a life of "happily ever after". The only strong women were always witches or wicked stepmothers who were the villains. I owned and operated my own child care centers in NJ and in TX over the years, and I used to buy copies of this book for each classroom and have given copies to my niece and 7 grandchildren.

It's a picture book about a fun-loving princess (Smartypants) who doesn't want to get married - she's very happy wearing her overalls, living with a lot of strange pets and magical beasts, and especially riding her Norton motorcycle.  Her parents the King and Queen command her to find herself a husband, so she sets impossible tasks for all the princes who come as suitors, offering her hand in marriage to anyone who can pass the tests. 

All of the potential husbands fail miserably and Smartypants happily watches them fail, until Prince Swashbuckle appears. He accomplishes all of the challenges including a bone shaking ride on the back of her motorcycle. Oh no, does she have to marry him now???  Well... (the kids love this part) she rewards him with a kiss and.... he's transformed into a gigantic warty toad and he hops away. When word gets out, nobody wants to marry her any more, and so she lives happily ever after with her pets and her motorcycle.  Girls and boys both love this story and I love to watch them as comprehension dawns... there's more than one way to live 'happily ever after'.

As a sort of extension of the story, I rode my own motorcycle to the pre-school that day, and after story time the children came outside with me and took turns sitting on the bike, wearing my helmet and revving the engine while the teacher took pictures for mom and dad.  That is Rori pictured above. I just loved being "motorcycle Granny"... sort of an old motorcycle princess for a day.

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