Imagine if you had an uncle who was a world-famous actor, a bona fide movie star. This uncle was kind and helpful and loving to your family as you were growing up. When he suddenly passed away, you were very sad, yet you wanted to somehow pay a tribute to him. With your talents in art and writing, you decide to create a book to honor this beloved uncle. That is how the picture book Princess April Morning Glory came to exist. Letitia Fairbanks was the niece of famous silent film star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. As a child, Letitia’s Uncle Douglas was a huge movie star, probably the first “Action Hero” of the movies. He was the first Thief of Bagdad, the first Zorro, and the first Robin Hood. His films were box office hits, and Letitia probably had the opportunity to see her uncle in these movies. When he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1939 at the age of 56, Letitia decided to honor her Uncle with a picture book, based upon a fairytale of her own creation and imagination. She created and wrote the story, drew the delicate watercolor illustrations, and wrote the caligraphy for the text of the story.
When Letitia’s book was complete and ready for the publisher, it was 1941. Due to her composing the art work with watercolors, and silver and gold leaf, the printing technology of the day couldn’t reproduce the delicate illustrations without a substantial financial cost, so the book was printed in pamphlet form without the illustrations. Moving ahead to 2012 and Princess April Morning Glory was resurrected into a lovely picture book through the efforts and hard work of three individuals: Kelly Smoot Garrett, Danny Garrett, and Amanda Letitia Millner-Fairbanks. Kelly Smoot Garrett was Letitia’s stepdaughter, and with the aide of Amanda Letitia Millner-Fairbanks, she being Letitia Fairbanks granddaughter, the two ladies got the manuscript ready for publishing. Danny Garrett, Kelly’s husband, an accomplished artist in his own right, used digital technology to reproduce the delicate watercolor illustrations that Letitia had created so that this time, the illustrations would be alongside the manuscript in the proper picture book format.
Princess April Morning Glory is a charming story. A young fairy princess, April Morning Glory, is tempted as all are at times, to think that the grass is greener on the other side. Ignoring the warning of her friend the Blue Butterfly, the princess crosses the magic boundary that separates the Enchanted Kingdom from The Great World. Once she has crossed that boundary line, Princess April Morning Glory regrets her decision, but she has to go on a journey to find out how she can get back to her loving family in the Enchanted Kingdom. A kindly wizard informs her that in order to return to her family, she must do 3 good deeds. Princess April Morning Glory, with her trusted friend, the Blue Butterfly, sets out on her mission of doing 3 good deeds, but as in every fairytale, there is an evil presence, the wicked fairy Misery. She will try to thwart the Princess in her quest to get back home.
This is a lovely picture book, especially to cuddle up with one’s children and read to them before their bedtime. The illustrations are beautiful and so is the caligraphy. Letitia Fairbanks even drew delicate, tiny illustrations to help add to the beauty of the caligraphy that she used for the text of the story. With her knowledge of Hollywood and her Uncle Douglas’s career, it is fun to look at the illustrations of the characters and note some of their similiarites with actual classic movie stars. Fairbanks did admit that she based the character of Prince Chivalry on her cousin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The Wicked King in the story resembles actor John Barrymore, grandfather of actress Drew Barrymore. To me, the evil fairy Misery sort of resembles Marlene Dietrich, with those sharp cheekbones. The wise wizard looks like Claude Rains, and at the end of the book, we have an illustration of Princess April Morning Glory all grown up, and that reminded me of Lana Turner! Of course, it could also be conjectured that it was inspired by Mary Pickford, the author’s late Uncle’s second wife, and an early contender for the title America’s Sweetheart, for her successes in silent and early talking films.
For more information about this delightful picture book, please visit PrincessApril.com. Information is also available about the book at Amazon.com. With the holidays approaching, this would make a great gift, especially for the child who loves to read and/or loves to be read to. It would also make a sweet gift for that Classic Movie fan in your life! To also learn more about Letitia’s Do Good 3 Deeds, visit www.Do3GoodDeeds.com