Princess[es] in Camo:
Duck Dynasty may have aired its final episode on A&E Network last spring, but 14-year-old Mia Robertson and her mother, Missy, have found a way for the playful antics among young cousins to live on in a new book series. A fictional take on what it was like filming reality television with family, Princess in Camo (Zonderkidz, $8.99) launched earlier this year with its first two titles, Allie’s Bayou Rescue and Running from Reality. Intended for girls age 8-12, they offer the same blend of relationship building, silliness, family values, leaning on Scripture, and the great outdoors found in Duck Dynasty—but with messages fit for pre-teens and parents as well.
In the series, protagonist Allie Carroway is 12 years old and dealing with the challenges of severe allergies and the embarrassment of fame. In the first book, rumors among producers and family suggest if she has another serious asthma attack, her parents may sell their home and move from the Louisiana Bayou to Arizona, far from the homes and property where they film their reality television show, Carried Away with the Carroways. This was an ailment specifically chosen by Mia to reflect the physical and emotional struggles that she has shared with audiences nationwide. Mia was born in 2003 with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and had her first corrective surgery at three months old. Since, she has also had palate correction surgery (7 months old) and a second lip correction surgery with additional correction to nasal passages (5 years old). In 2014, Mia underwent a major bone graft surgery, in which her physician took bone from her left hip and placed it in the cleft of her upper jaw. Missy explains that the Christian faith the Robertsons vocally cling to on screen has carried the family through it all.
As Allie’s health challenges follow her through the book series—which will expand to four titles in early September—so do glimpses into the Robertsons’ lives among camera crews. Missy says that while the characters and basic plot of each book were dreamed up by cousins Mia, Bella, Lily, Merrit and Rowdy, there are plenty of nonfiction glimpses sprinkled throughout that give a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to film Duck Dynasty. While filming Carried Away with the Calloways, for example, Allie and her cousins hint at required wardrobe changes and mandatory gun safety training. The Diva Duck Blind, a glittered-duck decorated fort in Allie’s Bayou Rescue, is based on a real hideout Mia and her cousins decided to remodel to help Rowdy Robertson feel welcome after his adoption in 2016. And in Chapter 7, the cousins communicate covertly behind producers’ backs by drawing in the dirt. Missy says that detail was added as an accurate portrayal of the family bond that made Duck Dynasty so appealing to begin with. “Oh, they can read each other’s minds. They understand each other’s looks,” she says. “That’s what happens in real relationships. You can almost finish each other’s sentences. Even though that gave more of a visual—writing in the dirt and things like that—they are very close in real life, and I hope it came across that way in the book. I think it did.”
Ultimately, Missy says the books reflect lessons that are vital to the pre-teen years, including perseverance, family bonds, and sacrificing for those you love. As Birmingham Christian Family parents and youth head into summer and plan for a new school year in the fall, Missy shares four of the lessons found in the book series:
- Speak Up. In Allie’s Bayou Rescue, Allie’s father tells her not to worry so much, but Allie is quick to inform him that 12 years olds do, in fact, worry quite a bit. It’s a moment that represents a child learning to lean on her parent and a parent realizing his daughter can listen to her own instincts and build her own faith. For Missy, it’s this slow growth toward independence that should make a parent proud. “They are going to have to start making decisions on their own as individuals and not just lean on their parents to make every decision for them. They are going to have to step out on their own and have their own faith,” she says. “That sometimes is hard for parents, especially if it’s your firstborn.”
- Trust in God’s Love. It’s a matter of bravery to pray for God to remove a specific challenge from your life and know it may not happen. “God has his reasons for doing and not doing what he does and doesn’t do, but you have to trust that God loves us more than anything else on earth and wants that relationship with us,” Missy says. “Sometimes he allows us to go through things to draw us closer to him, to lean more on him, to understand that we need him. The will of God is for his kingdom to grow…. so even though we may not have all the answers figured out, we need to learn that God loves us more than anything. More than the sparrows. More than the trees. He loves us individually.”
- Resist Poor Influences. Each Princess in Camo book touches on being yourself in the face of peer pressure. In Finding Cabin Six, the cousins are praying and sleuthing to save their favorite Christian summer camp from getting sold to a resort developer. A character named Madison seems to bring out the worst in Allie, who has to decide whether or not to give in and “join that negative club” or show mercy and “extend that olive branch,” Missy says. “A lot of that has to do with the people around you, especially with girls in that age group influencing each other in what to say and how to say it. Each one of those books hit on that a little bit.”
- Stay Put. As Allie and her cousins dream of a life away from the cameras in Running from Reality, sometimes we’re all tempted to completely rewrite our lives. However, it’s possible God has given us opportunities we shouldn’t miss right where we are. When what used to excite us about life becomes mundane, count your blessings.
Finally, Missy hopes parents and girls invested in the Princess in Camo series will look to Romans 5:30 for encouragement—as Mia has done with her cleft lip and palate, and as fictional Allie does in the face of her own health challenges. Faith nurtured in youth builds character, and Missy is proud that her daughter can speak (and write) so freely in a way that credits God for her blessings and perseverance. “She is the epitome of that verse because she is able to rejoice in her sufferings. The world just laughs at that,” Missy says. “Yet Paul was writing a lot of his books in the Bible sitting in a prison cell, saying you should rejoice. That is such an oxymoron to the world. Yet it’s so true…. That suffering produces perseverance that makes you either choose ‘I’m gonna give up’ or ‘I’m gonna trod on through.’ Perseverance of course produces character, and that character gives us all hope.”
- Camille Smith Platt