It’s my stop on the blog tour for Princesses Break Free by Timothy Knapman and Jenny Løvlie and I’m super excited to be sharing a guest post by Timothy.
Princesses Break Free is fun, wild adventure challenging the stereotypical image of a damsel in distress. The story starts in a fairy tale world like any other – princesses in distress are rescued by valiant and dashing princes and live happily ever after. But for Tilly, sitting around waiting to be rescued by a prince is BORING. So … Tilly simply rescues herself! And it’s not long before word of Tilly’s exploits spreads across the kingdom and inspires other princesses to take their fate into their own hands, too.
I am a huge fan of twisted fairy tales and I can’t wait to hand over to Timothy to tell us what inspired him to write this brilliant picture book…
Let me start by getting one thing absolutely clear: I love fairy tales. The famous ones, the not so famous ones, the scary ones, the funny ones – even the ones that are downright odd and are nearly always about turnips – I think they’re all fantastic. They’re like pebbles on the seashore: all those years of telling and retelling before anyone even thought of writing them down have left them polished and smooth, without any of the superfluous details and unnecessary detours that can sometimes undo a newer tale.
They are a treasure trove for any writer, a limitless source of inspiration and wisdom about the art of storytelling.
So why – you may well ask – if I’m such a fan of fairy tales, have I spent so much time mucking about with them? In my book Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bogey? (for instance) a naughty bogey escapes a giant’s nose to run riot through the world of fairy tales – destroying Cinderella’s carriage, squashing Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf and spoiling Goldilocks’s porridge in a way that is far too disgusting to relate here (in the sequel he makes a similarly dreadful mess of Rapunzel’s hair). And now, in my brand new book, Princesses Break Free, I have a heroine, Princess Tilly, who isn’t prepared to do what she’s supposed to, which is sit around and wait for a handsome prince to rescue her from a dragon. Instead, she rescues herself, and in so doing encourages all the other princesses to take their destinies into their own hands and go out and do what they want, not what’s expected of them. Of course, this puts the princesses’ support network of dragons, handsome princes and evil queens out of a job. Suddenly having plenty of time on their hands, the dragons try being taken prisoner, the princes have a go at getting rescued and the evil queens find another use for their poisoned apples – and they all realise that they like this new freedom too.
I chose fairy tales partly because I need a world that my young readers will be familiar with. There’s no point my spoofing something they haven’t seen: they won’t get the joke. With a fairy tale, they’ll know how the story is supposed to go, what roles the different characters are supposed to fulfil, and so they’ll enjoy it when things go off the rails. And fairy tales saturate their world. Thanks to various entertainment and merchandising conglomerates, they are everywhere a child looks: in books and cinemas, on lunchboxes, on streaming services, at fancy dress parties. I can’t tell you how many times I have visited schools on World Book Day to find myself welcomed by rows and rows of fairy tale princesses.
And it’s those princesses I was thinking about when I was writing Princesses Break Free. First and foremost, I want to entertain my readers, but I also have a more subversive intent.
Fairy tales have important and timeless lessons to teach (don’t judge someone by outward appearances, for instance – or beware of charming strangers) but they also carry the assumptions of the traditional societies that produced them, many of which (about class, ethnicity and gender especially) we no longer share.
It’s important for a child to know that the cornerstones of her life are solid and reliable – she is safe and she is loved – but she should know that she can also question the world around her, explore its possibilities for adventure, and that change is possible – and can be fun.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s high time I wrote a story about a mischievous turnip.
Thank you so much Timothy!
Princesses Break Free was published by Walker Books, 7 July 2022
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!
Timothy Knapman studied history at Oxford. Since then, he has spent his time writing plays, musicals, songs, operas and children’s books. He has written over 60 books, including the best-selling Dinosaurs in the Supermarket and its sequels, Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates and its sequels, Time Now To Dream, Soon, Sir Dancealot, Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes and Superhero Dad, Mum and Gran. They have been illustrated by a host of wonderful artists, including Helen Oxenbury, Patrick Benson, Sarah Warburton, Adam Stower, Russell Ayto, Joe Berger, Ada Grey, Laura Hughes, Nikki Dyson, David Tazzyman and many more. The books have been translated into 20 languages and have been read on CBeebies Bedtime Stories by Hugh Bonneville, Dennis Lawson, Adrian Lester, Harriet Walter, Tanni Grey-Thompson and many others. Tim has also written for CBeebies’ Driver Dan’s Story Train. New books are forthcoming from Walker, Macmillan and BBC Books.
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.