Once upon a time, there was a flight attendant from Atlanta who played dress-up with a six-year-old from Mobile. For hours on end they wore sparkling tiaras, talking of far-away castles and fairy godmothers. Then, the flight attendant, Susan Johnston, returned to her life as a working girl on the go—she couldn’t stop thinking about all those make-believe stories.
So she sat down at a computer keyboard and tapped out a few notes about little girls who grow up believing in fairy tales. She sent the e-mail to about twenty friends. “It just instantly came, the whole story,” Johnston said. After talking with Kimberly Webb, who also was a flight attendant at the time, the women fleshed out the book they hoped would turn traditional children’s literature on its unrealistic ear.
While a princess would lead the way, no wicked stepsisters, dank dungeons, or knights on white horses would sully the true-to-life tale. They also wanted to include some other little-known facts: A princess can work for a living, she can buy a palace for herself and she can travel the world on her own. “It’s a little bit of a different fairy tale,” said Johnston, whose friends on the Gulf Coast helped inspire the book Princess Bubble. “She doesn’t find a prince. She ends up finding that true happiness comes from helping others.”
Mobile resident Allison Daniels, the six-year-old with a penchant for playing dress-up, drew a picture that’s displayed on the inside cover of the book. Allison is the daughter of Larkin and Kim Daniels of Mobile. Other artwork from children across the region is included in the hardback that sells for $12. The book, Johnston said, is missing something so many classic fantasies include: a princess-as-victim waiting for a guy in line for a throne to rescue her from a magic spell or evil stepmother.
“I just felt that was a message women today needed to hear,” Johnston said. “You need to be happy from within and just share that happiness if you find a prince. It just reminds us that we are all princesses and we can all have happily ever after. It just depends on where you are.” The story begins with Princess Bubble, who is confused because all of the fairy tales she reads talk about finding a prince in order to live happily ever after. In her search, Princess Bubble discovers that everyone can be happy. It’s about learning to love yourself, being kind and giving of yourself to others, all the while looking forward to other adventures on the horizon.
“I love it because it’s the fairy tale for today,” said Karin Wilson, owner of Page & Palette bookstore where a signing is planned for the authors next week. Wilson said she remembers her grandmother telling her from an early age that she didn’t need to rely on a man for happiness. “I think if we teach young girls that today,” Wilson said, “they will be more successful and more fulfilled.” Webb and Johnston published the book themselves with the first printing hitting stores regionally in early spring. Next week, the authors will gather with princesses from both sides of the bay as they sign books and make merry with a bubble machine at the bookstore in Fairhope. Despite its whimsical illustrations, the story isn’t only for the Barbie and Barney set.
“It has a lot of adult humor,” Johnston said. “There are things in our book to make it funny if you are older and single and haven’t found a prince. The message kind of transcends all ages.” Princess Bubble is the first in a series of children’s books designed to teach youngsters to hold onto their dreams and to learn how being different can brighten their lives, according to the authors. “If a little girl reads the book and ten years from now doesn’t have a prom date,” Johnston said, “we want her to know you still are a princess and you still can have happily ever after.”
By: Casandra Andrews