Author Kate Lum

Every Friday, an advocate for children's books drops by Watch. Connect. Read. to finish my sentences. This week's special guest is author Kate Lum. We chatted about princesses, interesting hairdos, Sue Hellard's illustrations, and reading. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Kate! 

Princess Are Not Just Pretty tells the story of three princesses with mad hairdos who live in a palace by the sea. They work hard to make their princessdom the happiest in the world, but one day, Princess Mellie starts a competition about their looks. This distracts them for a while, until real princessdom problems bring them back to what matters.

Sue Hellard’s illustrations are fabulous! I understand she went to the V&A museum in London to sketch the historic dresses there. And she’s a master at the little humorous details that add new layers to a story. I especially love what she does with food—the princesses are endlessly supplied with towering goodies. My favourite was a printed menu offering in Princesses Are Not Quitters:  “frogs legs- make sure not a Prince in disguise.”

The hairstyles in Princesses Are Not Just Pretty...What can I say? Never before have such hairstyles been—and likely never again. I especially enjoy the presence of small animals within the piles of curls. Of course, it’s Mellie’s purple hair (she believes) that catapults her to the forefront of beauty.

What! Cried Granny and Stanley and the No-Hic Machine were my first two publications. I wrote Stanley for my then-sister-in-law Bernice Lum, a wonderful and prolific illustrator. The team at Bloomsbury UK used to ask, “One Lum or two?” (A very British joke, no?) After Stanley came What! Or What! Cried Granny as it’s called in North America. I wrote  it for my squirmy young son, and it never failed to engage him. It’s a wonderful book to read aloud—there’s nothing like a roomful of kindergartners shouting, “Whaaaat?” Wackily retro illustrations by Adrian Johnson.

Reading is the joy of my adulthood and the survival mechanism of my childhood. When things were sad or difficult, I could always disappear into a book. Books gave me hope that other sorts of lives and worlds were possible.

Picture books are the gateway to a love of reading, and as such, very important. I know a number of adults who collect picture books, too—they never cease to charm us with their miniature details. (The picture books, that is, not the adults.)

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me to do this sooner! It’s been a lot of fun—thanks very much for the opportunity.

I am giving away one copy of Princesses Are Not Just Pretty

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 6/20 to 11:59 p.m. on 6/22. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Borrow Princesses Are Not Just Pretty from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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