A Princess Book by Margaret Atwood?

secret-lives-of-princesses2I write about a lot of things for this blog: alumni, research, graduate students, etc. However, the posts that come up when I talk to people across campus are invariably the less academic ones: how to get coffee without going outside, Hagey Hall assaulted by a turkey, and—yes—children’s book suggestions. This post is the result of a conversation with a woman who runs one of our campus coffee shops. She is concerned about her granddaughter’s seeming fixation on princesses and her appearance. And so I promised my purveyor of coffee a list of picture books about princesses where the heroine is intelligent, resourceful, and doesn’t prioritize looks. This includes a princess book from the same Canadian literary icon who brought you The Handmaid’s Tale. Aren’t you curious? Read on….

General Picture Books
Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (Margaret Atwood): The princess is spoiled and wants others to take care of her. A witch casts a spell: until the princess reforms and learns being pretty isn’t everything, she will have a purple peanut on her nose. There’s a lot of entertaining alliterative word play, accompanied by humorous illustrations.

The Princess and the Pizza (Mary Jane Auch): A princess finds herself in a comic high-stakes competition for the hand of a lackluster prince; she successfully passes each test, including the final one, in which she makes a pizza. In the end she rejects him and opens a pizzeria.

Pirate Princess (Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen): An amusing tale of a princess who really wants to be a pirate, but when a Captain takes her on, he expects her to swab the deck and cook. He has to be convinced she can do more than domestic work.

Not Every Princess (Jeffrey Bone and Lisa Bone): If I say it’s published by the American Psychological Association will it sound dry? The pictures are charming, as is the story, and it won awards. It encourages girls to be who they are and not be limited by societal expectations.

The Princess and the Pig
(Jonathan Emmett): A princess and a farmer’s pig are switched at birth. Everyone just assumes a witch transformed them, “because it’s the kind of thing that happens all the time in books.” The pig dressed as a princess, incapable of behaving and rampaging through the palace, is brilliant.

Olivia and the Fairy Princess (Ian Falconer): Booklist writes, “Olivia is depressed. She sees that individuality counts for little in her world. Every other piggy girl (and some of the boys) all like to dress as sparkling fairy princesses.” Olivia experiments with different identities, documented in exceptionally witty illustrations.

The Guardian Princess Alliance: The artwork in these books could easily be mistaken for Disney’s, but the stories differ substantially. As one reviewer writes, “The Guardian Princess Alliance is fighting popular princess culture one educational book at a time using culturally diverse, LGBT-friendly princesses who care about saving the environment and helping humanity.” (The review is pointedly titled “These Are the Badass Feminist Princesses We Should Really Be Showing Young Girls.”)

Princess Grace (Mary Hoffman): Grace is excited be a princess on a parade float. But as she learns about all of the different things princesses have done in history, she decides to eschew pink taffeta for kente cloth.

Princess Hyacinth, the Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated
(Florence Parry Hyde): She floats, even as her parents try to weight her down; she eventually flies free unencumbered by her heavy princess gowns. The book is full of whimsical turns and illustrations.

The Worst Princess (Anna Kemp): A princess is rescued from her tower by a pompous prince, only to discover he intends that she will sit quietly in his tower all day. Instead, she befriends the dragon he’s trying to slay.

The Secret Lives of Princesses (Philippe Lechermeier): I’m just going to quote the WSJ review: “The Secret Lives of Princesses is less for reading, though, than it is for poring over: Its sumptuous pages are filled with Rébecca Dautremer’s stunning illustrations and Philippe Lechermeier’s fanciful descriptions of imaginary princesses and their whimsical accouterments.” It is magical (see image which opens this post).

The Paperbag Princess (Robert Munsch): Classic tale of a girl who defeats a dragon and then tells off the ungrateful prince whom she has rescued.

The Princess and the Admiral (Charlotte Pomerantz): From the Kirkus Review: “When the Tiny Kingdom’s celebration of one hundred years of peace is interrupted by the report of approaching warships, the wits of its ruler Princess Mat Mat and the wisdom of her astrologer more than compensate for the absence of weapons.” Based on an episode in 13th Vietnamese history.

Apple Pip Princess
(Jane Ray): A king tells his three daughters whichever of them can do something meaningful will inherit the now-barren kingdom. The youngest succeeds with the help of an apple-seed. People love this book; it is beautiful and thoughtful.

The Red Wolf (Margaret Shannon): She escapes the castle by knitting herself a red wolf costume and runs free, dancing “her wolfy dance” and howling “her wolfy howl.”

Retellings of Classics
Princess Smartypants (Babette Cole): Princes come to woo her, but she sets impossible tasks to test them. The artwork is more comical than pretty.

Cinder Edna (Ellen Jackson): Cinderella waits to be rescued; next door Cinder Edna is much more “can-do.” The contrasts between the two as they head to the ball—Edna takes the bus—meet different princes, and end up in quite different marriages is amusing.

Sleeping Bobby (Mary Pope Osborne): An inversion of Sleeping Beauty. Osborne also wrote Kate and the Beanstalk.

CinderSilly (Diana Thomson): When her family loses their money, resourceful CinderSilly shows them the way with wit and imagination.

Intersellar Cinderella (Deborah Underwood): Set in outer-space. Instead of losing her shoe at a ball, Cinderella loses her wrench. When the prince locates Cinderella and proposes marriage, she informs him she’s too young, but will happily be his chief mechanic. Underwood is also the author of Part-Time Princess, featuring a princess who fights dragons and trolls.

pack of peasThe Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas (Tony Wilson): The Prince doesn’t want to marry a sensitive princess; he wants a wife who likes hockey and camping. So instead of a stack of mattresses and a single pea, he selects an old sleeping bag and a package of frozen peas.

Books about princesses doing supposedly unprincessy things
Princess and the Pony (Kate Beaton): More Canadian content.
Kite Princess (Juliet Claire Bell)
Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? (Carmela LaVigna Coyle): She has written several similar books.
Princess Pigsty (Cornelia Funke)
Princess in Black (Shannon Hale): this is the only chapter book I’ve included—it’s very short and easy to read. But it’s by Hale, who has written amazing books for older readers about unconventional princesses.
Princesses Are Not Quitters (Kate Lum): she has written another.
Little Princess books (Tony Ross): Also now a television series.
Princess in Training (Tammi Sauer)
Not all Princesses Dress in Pink (Jane Yolen): Possibly the best of the bunch
Jane and the Dragon (Martin Baynton): a series which became a television show.

See also:
Twenty Chapter Book Series with Interesting Heroines for Early Readers, Ages 6-8

Back to School with Chapter Books Featuring Boys, Ages 7-9

Our Newest Faculty Member is also an Alumna?!

It rarely happens that professors are hired at an institution from which they graduated–but it has just happened at UWaterloo! Ashley Rose Kelly is our newest Assistant Professor, and we are thrilled to have her. She also graciously agreed to do a Words in Place interview. Read on to find out what it is like to come back as faculty and  have former professors as new peers–all while establishing yourself and your research at a new institution.

JLH: You have the uncommon experience of being hired as a professor at the same university where you did your undergrad—is there a little bit of déjà vu? Is it a mental adjustment to have your former professors as colleagues?
ARK: I completed both my undergraduate studies (B.A. in Literature and Rhetoric) and early graduate studies (M.A., co-op in Rhetoric and Communication Design) in the department. Returning to the University of Waterloo as a faculty member was all part of my ideal career trajectory and by some alignment of the cosmos that actually happened. More than feeling déjà vu I’m a little surprised to find myself here—thrilled, but surprised.

Mental adjustments have felt breezy and natural, and I credit that to how well I have been treated by the department’s faculty. Working with Randy Harris and Neil Randall I always felt as though I was treated as a competent and respected colleague, albeit a junior one.

JLH: Has campus changed since you were here? Do you find you are looking at Waterloo—the city and university—with a different set of priorities?
ARK: Kitchener-Waterloo is certainly a growing region and the campus has indeed changed. My fiancé, Brad Mehlenbacher, also completed his BA (85) and MA (87) in the Department of English Language and Literature at UWaterloo so we toured around campus and had some fun noting the changes that occurred between our times there and my return to UWaterloo.

Upon returning my priorities are certainly different for the city. A lot of long-term commitments to the city and region exist now where they didn’t before. Looking at the university now, as alumni and faculty rather than a student, I am somewhat more focused on long-term planning. Some priorities remain the same, such as my commitment to inter- and multi-disciplinary research, which I engaged in during my graduate studies at UWaterloo.

JLH: What excites you most about this upcoming year?
ARK: Wherever I begin this response I find myself overwhelmed with an ever-growing list. Most generally I am excited to return to an English department. I feel at home in an English department, and enjoy the composition here at UWaterloo of literary scholars, new media and critical cultural, writing studies scholars, and rhetoricians like myself—and, especially and of course, those with overlapping identities.

JLH: How do you feel your research fits at UWaterloo? Are there specific opportunities you are pursuing?
ARK: Much of my research is inter- and multidisciplinary and collaborative. At North Carolina State University, where I earned my Ph.D., and at Purdue University, where I began my career as a faculty member, I worked with researchers from across the humanities and social sciences as well as STEM disciplines. UWaterloo’s reputation in STEM subjects and our own department’s industrious faculty members who collaborate with other departments and programs, and indeed the faculty in English who are appointed from other program homes, are good evidence that the research I conduct is already established and valued here.

After landing at UWaterloo, I secured an internal grant to support my next major project, “Networked Expertise in Multidisciplinary STEM Collaborations,” which I am beginning in the Fall term. The study examines the role of expert social networks in generating scientific knowledge by investigating how individual researchers in effective multidisciplinary STEM collaborations assess the competencies of their peers from other disciplines in order to understand implicit and explicit assessments of expertise.

I’m also reaching out across campus to make, or in some cases to rebuild, connections. Part of my time is spent in The Games Institute where I am developing a project entitled the SciGames Hub. I’ve also been working with Randy Harris (PI) and Chrysanne DiMarco on a grant-funded project looking at rhetorical figures in computational rhetoric, a project situated between English and Computer Science. Another exciting affiliation is with the Science and Technology in Society Teaching Group at UWaterloo. I identify as a rhetoric of science researcher working in science studies, so I was thrilled to find a broader community of science studies scholars here at UWaterloo.

Another way UWaterloo has benefited my work is to host the Genre Across Borders website. I’ve been working closely with Carolyn R. Miller, a leading—if not the leading—genre scholar, to continue building this inter-disciplinary and international resource for genre researchers and we’re thrilled to have a long-term, university-based hosting solution for this scholarly project.

JLH: I presume—like most of us—you have several research projects underway. Is there one that you are most excited about?
ARK: My book project, Trans-Scientific Genres of Science Communication, is one that I have been working on most intensely since joining the faculty here. I’m very excited about the project, which is progressing nicely. The book explores how scientific communication is rapidly changing in web-mediated environments and encompasses a range of emerging genres and social practices and it explores crowdfunding proposals, open notebooks, open databases, new kinds of visualizations, and blogging as “trans-scientific genres.”

JLH: Finally, what is the last novel you read for fun?
ARK: How about what’s next? I’m eager to crack open The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon. The book is about the relationship between a young Alexander the Great and Aristotle. I’m a rhetorician so it is probably obvious why I’d be interested in the book, but I’m especially excited to begin reading Lyon’s book because she is a Canadian author, and I’ve rather embarrassingly not kept up with Canadian literature while I’ve been abroad.

Arts Reunion 2015 wants YOU!

waterloo reunion
Not everyone in the world is on Facebook–many of your former profs, for instance. And there are classmates you wouldn’t even think to Google, but when you see them, you exclaim “I can’t believe I forgot him/her!” (Maybe they are in the picture above?) That’s why we value reunions; they’re opportunities for personal contacts, serendipity, and more. UWaterloo is hoping you’ll come back on October 3, 2015 for this year’s Reunion.  Enjoy a number of events hosted by Arts happening around UWaterloo that day. Read on to find out what might interest you.

Saturday, October 3, 9:30am to 12:00pm

  • Check In and have coffee with the Dean of Arts at the Reception in the Arts Lecture Hall at 9:30 am
  • Enjoy a special toast by Dean Doug Peers to those celebrating milestones (5, 10, 15 years and more) at 10:15 am
  • Hear the Dean’s Panel Discussion: “Are You the “S” Generation? from 10:45 am – 11:45 am in room AL 113
  • Join all UWaterloo alumni for lunch at 12:00 pm in Federation Hall
  • Enjoy many other University wide Reunion events

Find out more about Reunion Weekend events in each UWaterloo faculty and campus-wide!


Arts Lecture Hall

200 University Avenue West

Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1


For more, click here.

Graduate Conference: Ted and Sylvia

Are you a fan of Sylvia Plath? How about Ted Hughes? Or maybe you just want to know what kind of research our graduate students are doing, or why I have included a photo of Sylvia Plath feeding a deer at Algonquin Park, and what does that have to do with all of this? Read on to find out more!–JLH 

On July 29, the students of “English 735: Ted and Sylvia,” taught by professor Murray McArthur, held a conference to present their research projects. “Ted and Sylvia” was devoted to the seven years of the partnership of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath from their tumultuous meeting on February 25, 1956 to her death in February 1963. Organized around Birthday Letters, the lyric-narrative cycle that Hughes published in 1998, the year of his death, the course also addressed his first two volumes of poetry, The Hawk in the Rain (1957) and Lupercal (1960), her first volume, The Colossus (1960), her journals and letters home, and her novel, The Bell Jar (1963), and the two arrangements of Ariel, the manuscript she created in December 1962 and the very different volume published by Hughes in 1965. The program was as follows:

Session One: 12:30-2:20

Sarah Walker: “Toward One Self, or Oneself?: The Authenticity of the Divided Self in The Bell Jar and Ariel”:
This paper examined the ways in which Sylvia Plath presented the idea of her many different selves as a sincere and accurate means of expressing her identity. The paper attempted to offer a brief critique of the concept of Plath having only one, true “authentic” self that she progressed toward, and instead put forward the view that Plath was always presenting this divided self to her readers in her works in prose and poetry.

Airlie Heung: “Ted and Sylvia’s Summer Travels of 1959: ‘The 59th Bear’ Short Stories and Poems”:
During the journey across Canada (photo of Sylvia feeding the deer at Algonquin Park) and the U.S.A. in the summer of 1959, Sylvia Plath wrote no journal entries. Suspecting she was pregnant (an obsessive topic of the journals), which was confirmed when they returned and went to Yaddho in October, she wrote instead the short story “The Fifty-ninth Bear,” which Ted responded to thirty years later through a poem with that title and four others about the journey in Birthday Letters.

Michelle Irvine: “Sylvia Plath: Poetry and Prose Mediated by History”:
In October 1962 when Plath wrote twenty-six of the poems for Ariel, coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis would have been on the BBC on her radio in Dorset continuously. The historical, however, has been little considered in relation to Plath, and this paper examines the historical in Plath through four aspects: the historical references in Ariel; the reception of Plath as historical by second wave Feminism; her writings as historical archive; Hughes’ use of history to control the narrative of Birthday Letters.


Samuel Rowland: “The Hawk Is Howling: Sublimity and Synaesthetic Metaphor in The Hawk in the Rain”:
This paper discussed synaesthesia and the sublime in Ted Hughes’s poem “Wind.” This paper will be the basis for a larger research essay on sensation, perception, and the continuous motif in Hughes’s The Hawk in the Rain of the horizon, a motif foregrounded in his 1962 BBC broadcast “The Rock,” about his birthplace of Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire.

Session Two: 2:30-4:20

Aleczandra Sallows: “The ‘Ariel Poems’: Sylvia Plath’s Salvation and Demise”:
This paper examined specific examples of Plath’s conflicting emotions towards the people around her as well her own views of life. The aim of this paper was to prove that Plath cured herself of these conflicting emotions through her writing of the “Ariel” poems in an attempt to reveal her true self; however, through this process she stripped herself of all of the love relationships in her life and lost her identity, which ultimately led to her suicide.

Brittany Rossler: “Reading the Poetic Rainbow: Continuing the Conversation in Colour in the Poems of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes”:
This paper examined the palette of colours in the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the responses of Ted Hughes to the seven-colour spectrum of Ariel. Plath colourized or colour-coded her poetry, especially through the key colours of red, white, and blue, and Hughes responded throughout Birthday Letters towards the last poem in the sequence, “Blue,” where he turned the famous red head scarf stolen at their first meeting blue.

Jessica-Leigh Van De Kemp: “’I Eat My Way’: Poetry-as-Eat in Sylvia Plath’s ‘Poems for a Birthday’”:
This study of Sylvia Plath’s poetic sequence “Poem for a Birthday” identifies William Slaughter’s eating metaphor as the prime device that Plath uses to position poetry as a generative process within the body. The metaphor of poetry-as-eat allows Plath to bridge the gap between her vocations as poet and mother and links the composition process to ideas of identity, ventriloquy, and writing the body.

Victoria Feth: “’Bones Still Undergoing Everything’: Burying and Raising the Future in Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters”:
Among corporeal bodies, like Sylvia Plath’s, the futuregiven a textual body by Ted Hughes’ poeticsis buried throughout Birthday Letters. Unlike Sylvia, this paper argued that the unrealized futures cannot be resurrected, even symbolically, through the act of poetry making.

Thank you to the students of 735 for sharing their research.

Image credit: Etsy.

Back to school style: grammar and punctuation

It’s back to school time: some are stocking up on school supplies, others are having nostalgic flashbacks to the fall Sears catalogue, and many are busily cramming in all they meant to do over the summer, but didn’t quite accomplish. Here at Words in Place, we are celebrating back to school with a review of the best grammar and punctuation sites. Read on for the amusing and informative.

Apostrophe Abuse
Jaw-dropping real-life abuses of the apostrophe are catalogued. It’s brilliant.

Apostrophe Catastrophe
Another amazing blog dedicated to apostrophe abuse. Come to the Psychic Fayr’e! Alway’s be prepared! Taxi’s line up here!

The “Blog” of Unnecessary Quotation Marks
You can scroll through the examples. I am still pondering what it means to “Get Double Meat.”

The Diacritics
There are thoughtful accessible posts about random linguistic matters. How many unintentional puns do you hear in a day? Is it euros or euro?

Grammar Girl
In addition to authoring several readable books on grammar, and maintaining a website featuring quick and dirty grammar tips, Mignon Fogarty has a Facebook page, and if you “like” it, you too can get tips in your newsfeed on very important grammar matters—such as when to use myself, and when to use me.

If you’re wondering if I should have used catalog versus catalogue above, they have a post on that. This is a wonderful site which covers everything from grammar and usage to style. They have a special section for users for whom English is not a first language. Also, they link to grammar games. Seriously, grammar games.

How to Write Badly Well
There are entertaining videos instructing you on how to write not very well at all. Run by UK poet Joel Stickley, the blog is a wonderful archive of insanity.

Mr. Verb
This is a series of blog entries where various authors deconstruct bad writing and speech by people who sometimes should know better. It’s light reading for academics, with a bit of academic politics. Posts have titles like “Mountain Man Linguistics” and “Gothica Bononiensia.”

Oxford comma

The Proper English Foundation
A brilliantly satirical site. I particularly like “People who have made slight grammatical errors and must be imprisoned.” Those cited include Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Teachers.

Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar
Subtitle: “An online journal in which members of The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar document their noble efforts.” Examples include a Craigslist advertisement: “Exp’d, Loving, Conscious [sic]  Nanny Available.” Quips the SPGG, “Unfortunately, we’re only in the market for an unconscious nanny.”

Throw Grammar from the Train
Informative and witty posts about genuine slippages in language. Can you refer to someone as “that” for instance, or must you use who? (Asks “the person that wrote this post.”)

..and the obligatory Buzzfeed link, “19 jokes All Grammar Nerds Will Appreciate.”

A Party! Our PhD turns 25

The English Language and Literature Department will be hosting a celebration of the Twenty-Fifth anniversary of the founding of its PhD program. The program was and remains unique in its blending of Literature and Rhetoric and has successfully graduated fifty-six students into academic and other careers. The celebration will be held in the SAF Atrium in Hagey Hall on Friday, September 11, 5:30 to 7:30. Light refreshments and a cash bar will be available. All former students of the program, faculty, and friends of the Department are invited.

And if you are curious, you can find out more about past PhD graduates and where they are now here.

Image credit: Etsy.

Find out about New Minors and New Courses

kathy acheson
English’s very own Dr. Kathy Acheson has now taken on the new position of Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs. Find out what she’s been doing to, in her words, to “make it easier for faculty and staff advisors to support student progress towards that hat-flinging moment of joy, convocation.”

New and improved Academic Plans!
By Kathy Acheson, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs

Over the last two years we’ve done a major renovation of the 28 plans that outline what Arts students have to do to earn their degrees. We’ve streamlined the curriculum, opened up choices, and made it easier to make changes along the academic career path. The new plans are more flexible, so students can customize their degrees by adding a minor to their major or pursuing a specialization within their major. The new plans will also make it easier for faculty and staff advisors to support student progress towards that hat-flinging moment of joy, convocation.

How will the new plans affect you?

The new plans will go into effect September 2016. Students enrolled at that time can switch in to the new plans if they want to (but they can’t pick and choose bits and pieces from the old and the new – it has to be one or the other!). The Arts Undergraduate Office (AUO) has prepared one-page guides for each plan that show the changes to the degree requirements and the pros and cons of switching. These will be distributed as part of a comprehensive communication plan for students and faculty near the beginning of the fall 2015 term. Faculty and Staff advisors are eager to put in place the new plans, which promise to help them support students even better than they already do.

More of our students will be able to graduate with Honours, and more will be able to take courses and specializations that are only open to Honours students. Given the diversity of our offerings and our students, specifics about the new plans need to be distributed in a coordinated fashion so that students are not confused about eligibility, and advisors are properly prepared for students’ questions. Once these support materials (one-page guides and updates to the Advisors’ Handbook) have been distributed, students will be in a position to choose how to proceed. Stay tuned!

New first-year programming

We want every first-year BA student to have a taste of the best that Arts has to offer: great teaching in small classes, inspiring experience shared with a close-knit group of peers, and the development of competencies that lead to transformative insights and creative solutions to pressing problems. So we’re busy designing two courses that will be offered in 25-student sections and taught by full-time, experienced instructors. One course will focus on how we ask questions and frame answers, and the other will explore how we gather, analyze, and disseminate information.

The courses will be ready to go in Fall of 2017. They will give every BA student a strong foundation to build on in the rest of their academic career and connections with their instructors and their colleagues that will help sustain their success at University.

New minors

In the Arts Strategic Plan we committed to developing new career-focused, interdisciplinary minors. We’re very proud to be rolling out minors in Digital Arts Communication, Technical Writing, International Trade, and Public Policy and Administration in Fall 2015. These minors are open to all Arts students, so a student could do an Econ major with a Public Policy and Admin minor, or a Psychology major with a Digital Arts Communication minor, or an English major with an International Trade minor…the possibilities are almost endless! This is one way that the new, streamlined plans have made it easier for students to take advantage of the rich diversity Arts has to offer.

This article originally appeared in Inside Arts, Summer 2015.