Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Dame Julie Andrews is no stranger to the royal life. She’s graced the screen and stage in roles like Cinderella, Queen Clarisse Renaldi in The Princess Diaries
and Queen in Shrek.
But it’s a new little “royal” that has captured her heart —the star of the children’s book series Andrews authors with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton
The inspiration for The Very Fairy Princess’s Geraldine is a feisty girl named Hope, Hamilton’s daughter and Andrews’ granddaughter. In the books, she’s a problem-solving princess who, in the latest story, is nervous to graduate and start afresh in a new classroom come fall.
“We really wanted to create a series that empowered little girls to think about who they were inside,” Hamilton says. “It’s ironic that it’s the princess theme, because you think about princesses and it’s all about the externals…and certainly that’s something Gerry, our little princess character, adores, but it’s actually really about the inner sparkle, and she is a different kind of princess than you might imagine.”
Andrews describes Geraldine—who has scabs on her knees and holes in her tights—as a “tomboy.” Gerry does her best to assume the life of a princess while encountering the struggles her normal elementary-aged peers face. “She says things like, you can be whatever you want to be, you just have to let your sparkle out, and so that’s become the recurring theme throughout these books, of Gerry sometimes being in danger of losing her sparkle…but inevitably reclaiming it and finding it again,” Hamilton says.
Just as some of the characters in the story are modeled after real people—Hope’s own male teacher donned polka dot socks, like Gerry’s new teacher does in Graduation Girl!—some of the stories also stem from real-life events.
“There’s one story of my childhood that I wove into this series,” Andrews says, noting that she once had forgotten to pack ballet shoes for a performance that was taking place on a rainy bank holiday. The shops were closed, there was no one she could borrow from, and her socks had holes and were covered in mud. She did have a wet-wipe, which her mother used to paint a shoe over her socks, just as Gerry does in Sparkles in the Snow. When Andrews went on stage, she “left a trail of little white footprints,” she recalls. “You could see [the audience] saying, ‘Is she wearing shoes?’ And I was mortified. I never forgot my shoes again.” In the story, Gerry similarly leaves purple tracks on the stage. “But it was lovely to be able to refer to it and know exactly how the little kid felt,” Andrews said.
While other books are in the works, Andrews and Hamilton are unsure as to whether Gerry will age and tackle more grown-up topics. Hamilton explains the authors did not wish to state the specific grade Gerry was graduating from in the latest book, for example.
In an age so focused on technology, reading books is still vital for children. “When you’re engaging with text, you’re decoding,” as opposed to looking at a screen, where “you’re simply receiving,” Hamilton says. “It is essential to preserve that and to sustain that for young readers.”
Moms, do you have your own little “royal”? Dazzle her with this princess-sneaker cake:
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Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Excuse me while I brag about the perks of my job: Last summer I got to visit Sesame Street. Over the winter I was invited to bring my daughter for a tour of Radio City Music Hall and a private dance lesson with The Rockettes. And yesterday, to continue my winning streak of interacting with massive cultural icons, I attended a small roundtable discussion with Julie Andrews. She and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, were talking to us about the upcoming National Princess Week, sponsored by Disney and Target. (If you’re like me and your car practically drives itself to Target every weekend, you’ll see how it’s being celebrated there: with toys and items about all the Disney princesses and a new 2-DVD set of “The Princess Diaries” and “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” on Blu-Ray, among other things.) The week also coincides with the publication of the third book in Julie’s and Emma’s Very Fairy Princess series, The Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes the Flower Girl. Julie and Emma were accompanied by Emma’s sweet young daughter, Hope, who generated a big “awww” from the room when she said that one of the things she likes best about princesses is that “they’re so kind.”
As someone who went on “The Sound of Music Tour” in Salzburg and has attended not one but two Sound of Music singalongs, getting to meet Julie Andrews in person was kind of a huge deal. She is precisely the way you’d expect and hope she’d be: warm, well-spoken, poised, lovely. And learning more about her super-successful writing career was so interesting. She’s written more than 20 books, many of them children’s picture books that she’s co-authored with Emma, who teaches children’s literature courses and has a thriving business mentoring children’s book authors. The mother-daughter duo live on opposite coasts (Los Angeles and Long Island, respectively) so they do a lot of their collaborating via iChat and Skype. They told a great story of the morning Julie woke up to Skype with Emma and felt too underdressed–so she spritzed on some perfume. (“It made me feel better,” Julie laughed.) You might assume, as I did, that getting books published has been relatively easy for them, but they’ve dealt with their share of rejection: “Oh, we’ve proposed lots of ideas where we’re told, ‘We think it’s a great idea, but it feels like a… quiet book,’” Emma said.
Given all the princess talk, the conversation inevitably led to Kate Middleton, and then right on to her sister Pippa, who’s currently in the middle of a pistol “scandal” (I’m not getting the gravity, personally). Julie shook her head. “I feel sorry for her,” she said. “By not being a royal, she is free to be targeted by the press. The paparazzi can’t get at Kate, so they get at Pippa. It must drive her crazy.”
When I got home last night, I read the new Very Fairy Princess book to my two girls, ages 6 and 3, and they sat quietly through the whole thing. That’s high praise in and of itself, but the real seal of approval came later when I went into my older daughter’s room to turn off her light, and the book was tucked under the covers with her.
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