Janeen Brian is a highly regarded author based in South Australia. She has a strong backlist of over 100 books for young readers. Some of many highlights are the picture books I’m a Dirty Dinosaur (illustrated by Ann James), Where Does Thursday Go? (illustrated by Stephen Michael King), Where’s Jessie? (illustrated by Anne Spudvilas) and the novel Yong (now a play).
Janeen writes about The Fix-it Princess for Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords blog.
The Fix-it Princess is a story about a girl and a dragon who become friends and who, together, solve a distressing problem involving missing parents.
The Fix-it Princess is Princess Shona, a name chosen, not because of its Scottish heritage or castles, but because it was an unusual name for an unusual girl and because I love the sibilant quality of the words that run together.
You can probably sense that words, their sounds, their ability to evoke images and their rhythmic and rhyming qualities figure importantly in my books and poetry and I often receive comments such as: I can always picture what you write about and your work has a lovely, read-aloud quality.
Other titles created for earlier drafts included What’s the Plan? The Princess and the Plan and The Adventures of Princess Shona, but I think The Fix-it Princess is snappy, offers an assertive image and indicates an important aspect of Shona’s nature.
So, who is Princess Shona and what does she fix?
First of all she is an only child, happy in her home, Castle-by-the-Woods, which was so named because of the importance of the woods in the story. Her parents, Queen-Mum and Dad-King are loving parents. However, they are also aware of one of Shona’s endearing, yet concerning traits. It’s her irrepressible ‘can-do’ attitude to things, where her overly-enthusiastic approach often leads to upsets. Or as it happens, disasters, like the day she loses her parents.
That particular day she sends them on a flight in one of her own, hand-made flying contraptions.
It also happens to be the last time she sees them…
Linked to this deeply troubling scenario, is a musical mystery. One day, from her bedroom window, Shona hears something or someone singing. No-one is about the castle or the grounds, so where can this glorious music be coming from? Shona is motivated to discover its source because of her own love of singing – which she does with much gusto and little tunefulness.
Day follows day and still there’s no sign of her parents. Other problems occur to challenge Shona’s fix-it ingenuity. The chickens, her main source of food, stop laying and the collapse of their hen-house adds to Shona’s work load. The drawbridge, her main exit to the world beyond the castle, jams repeatedly, which increases the frustration when Shona finally decides it’s time to step outside and seek her parents.
Shona never expects to meet a dragon. But she does. And together, over time, they wrestle with wings and ways to find the lost Mum-Queen and Dad-King. Through it all, Princess Shona’s buoyant nature shines through; borne of love for her parents, concern for her own wellbeing alone in an empty castle, her passion for fixing things and the possibility that with a dragon friend, all will work out well.
Despite this story having its beginning way back in 2006, I’ve always enjoyed writing about Shona. She’s not quite a Pippi Longstocking, but she’s prepared to be adventurous. And although this characteristic occasionally tips into recklessness, in time, Shona learns an important lesson or two.
The Fix-it Princess was one of those texts that began with gusto, didn’t make the grade, was shelved again and again, shortened, lengthened, given up on, and then, years later, after another rewrite, finally accepted by Walker Books Australia. In 2021 Sue Whiting was commissioned as the Project Manager for the book. As well as being a wonderful storyteller and author herself, Sue is an astute editor who also has a vast knowledge of marketing and the publishing industry in general. She also edited another of my books: Yong: the journey of an unworthy son, which was a Notable Award in the 2017 CBCA awards, as well as being adapted into a play, YONG, by Monkeybaa Theatre for Young People. It was a joy to work with Sue again.
There are so many pressing issues for children to deal with today, I wanted this story, The Fix-it Princess, to have a light-hearted quality so that readers everywhere could simply enjoy it for what it is; a story about a princess, a dragon, music, love and persistence.
I hope in time I find out that I’ve achieved my aim.
The Fix-it Princess at Walker Books Australia