The Boxer and the Princess by Helme Heine
Rating: 4 stars
Unlike most rhinoceroses, Max is gentle and sensitive; unlike most rhinoceroses, his skin is thin and delicate. His father tells him to toughen up; life is hard, after all.
And so, he does.
He dons boxing gloves to beat back the mosquitoes, army boots to protect his feet, an iron suit so the contents of his stomach cannot be seen, and an iron helmet so the weight of a butterfly will not make his horn droop. Finally, he feels strong and grown-up. He is a tough nut to crack, and shielded by everything. We can't even see Max, just the suit he wears. "Only cold and loneliness found a way through his armor...Max and all his feelings were locked up tight, and there was no key to open him."
My heart goes out to him.
His parents send him away, though assuring him that they'd be around whenever he needed them. He defeats dragons and has many adventures until... One. Day. He meets a princess. He asks him to marry her, but she refuses to marry a boxer.
And so... He wants to pick her flowers, so he takes off his boxing gloves. He wants to walk on tightropes like she does, so he takes off his army boots. He wants to swim with her, so he unlocks his armor--and the princess can see his heart. Her kisses make him stronger than ten suits of armor. They marry and live happily ever after.
I'm still sorting out this book in my head. It's an odd children's book--definitely more suited for adults--and I don't like to have books around that talk of marriage while our kids are still encouraged to treat both genders as friends. But. This is a rare gem of a book that really makes me think of what suit of armor I'm conditioning our kids to wear, of the armor I wear (and why?), and how to take it all off.