Anita Lehmann was reading The Hobbit out loud, when her daughter asked, “Why are there no girls in this story?” Anita wondered, why indeed—and from then on noticed how many classic children’s stories were missing female characters or rife with casual sexism. “The early Thomas the Tank Engine books sum it up: Girls and women are ‘carriages’ rather than ‘engines.’ They are weak and silly.” Anita decided something needed to be done. She sharpened her sense of humor, exchanged her children’s writing cap for an adult one, and under the nom de plume of Walburga Appleseed wrote The Princess and the Prick. Just released by the Harper Collins imprint HQ, it’s being billed as a “feminist humour and gift book for adults.”
The Princess and the Prick is decidedly not for children. Walburga retells fairy tales, nursery rhymes, childhood classics, and more through short vignettes told through a wry feminist voice. Walburga’s award-winning flash fiction is apparent from beginning to end. I continually laughed out loud at the wit and surprise of her compact and straight-to-the-gut reinterpretations. One of my favorite’s is “Alice In Wonderland.”
In her dreams, Alice can do all sorts of things.
Then she wakes up.
It says it all, doesn’t it?
The Princess and the Prick
Written by Walburga Appleseed, Illustrated by Seobhan Hope
Revisit childhood classics, but not as you remember them. Familiar fables are turned on their heads as your beloved heroines finally have their say.
Think Ladybird for Adults or Enid Blyton spoofs; The Princess and the Prick flips fairy tales, nursery rhymes and children’s books on their head. Retold through a feminist lens as one liners, verses and rhyming couplets, and highlighting the sexism endemic in stories we grew up with, these classic tales will never be the same again…
May I kiss you, he said.
She didn’t answer. She was asleep.
So he kissed her anyway.
Under her own name, Anita is known as a children’s author, with four picture books already in libraries and bookstores. Born in Switzerland, she later lived in Taiwan and the Galápagos Islands. I had the great fortune to share a picture book critique group with Anita when she returned to Switzerland for a few years. I benefited often from her keen understanding of storytelling. Alas, she moved on again, and today joins us from Cambridge, England, where she currently lives with her husband, three kids and two yin and yang bunnies, Mony and Nala.
Please join me in welcoming Anita Lehmann, as she tells us what was on her…
List of most offending fairytales: Two classic Disney subjects:
- Snow White
- Sleeping Beauty
…because the protagonists are either asleep or dead most of the time. AND terminally stupid.
List of favorite fairytales: So many! A selection:
- Snow White and Rose Red, a lesser known Grimm tale about two sisters empowering each other.
- Goose Girl: This was my all-time favourite fairytale as a child, so it goes on this list. I used to love the talking dead horse’s head who spoke for his mistress…never for a second wondering whether this might be just a bit weird.
- The Maid of Wildenloh – a recent discovery: the story of a maid who basically smashes seven robbers over the head with a spade…and then lives happily ever after.
- The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander: a book series based on Welsh legends. Taran Assistant Pig Keeper and Princess Eilonwy took me by the hand and carried me through very dark parts of my childhood. I read that series dozens of times, and still revisit it.
- Angela Carter’s and Sharon Blackie’s work
- Any story Hugh Lupton chooses to tell because his voice is like honey.
Post-Its: Endless scene and character notes for my novel which serve to highlight quite how messy my plot is right now…
Reading table: It’s a very full and patient reading table:
- The London Train by Tessa Hadley
- The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
- Mentona Moser by Eveline Hasler
- The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley
- The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson (second reading)
- The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf
- The School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
- Galoshes, poems by Elizabeth Hornor Boquet
- Don’t Tell the Bees by Mary-Jane Holmes (not quite on the table yet, but purchased today)
Cambridge Street: Field Maple trees turning slowly yellow
Writing Desk: Bits of insulation material and shiny silver tape so I can keep warm in my writing shed this winter!
Catalogue of favorite Britishisms:
- ‘It’s interesting’ (meaning: ‘it’s rubbish’, but for years I thought the Brits actually meant ‘It’s interesting’ when they say ‘It’s interesting.’ Oh dear.)
- ‘Ay oop (hello), me duck’ – a greeting only ever heard in Nottingham and surroundings. Can’t think of a better way to greet anyone.
- looming deadlines for a project about amazing Swiss women (out February 2021!), and the first three chapters of my novel
- zoom calls, zoom events, zoom gatherings. Sad, I know.
- How I’m going to keep warm in my writing shed this winter
- Why Eliza Doolittle decided to return to the terrible professor man in the film adapation of My Fair Lady. I’ll never forgive that script writer / Eliza.
- Where is the chocolate?
- Who has eaten all the chocolate?
- oh no is it that time already?
It is, indeed, that time. Thanks so much for stopping by, Anita! And Walburga! I just listened to Hugh Lupton recite John Clare’s heartbreaking poem about the badger. His voice truly is like honey.
If you would like to order The Princess and the Prick, simply click on the book below.
If you are interested in Anita’s children’s books, click on the books below.
If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit sandranickel.com.