Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were –
Come Wednesday you may end up putting salt in your morning cuppa instead of sugar. Or perhaps some whippersnapper will wrap the toilet seat in cling wrap.
What an odd tradition. As a British magazine correspondent asked in 1708, “Whence proceeds the custom of making April Fools?”
In fact there’s no clear answer. But wouldn’t life be a bit dull without the trickster?
“Beatrix Potter was born in London in 1866, and like all upper-class Victorian children, she was expected to be a model of good behaviour,” notes the introduction of A Very Naughty Rabbit: Tales Of Mayhem And Mischief (published in 2002 and filed in the Lennoxville Library at C-138): “‘Children should be seen and not heard,’ was a favourite maxim of those days, and Beatrix was an obedient and well-behaved daughter. But she could still create the fun of being naughty in her imagination… She also kept pets of her own in the schoolroom of her house and recognized that dogs, rabbits and mice had much more leeway than she did to indulge in mischief.”
More than 100 years later, Potter’s stories “still remain a constant inspiration to the rebellious spirit.”
Nonetheless, Potter’s stories always end with the bad being punished. Crime never pays in the 11 rather bloodthirsty tales collected up in this anthology… Little Peter Rabbit’s mother warns him not to go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: “Your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.”
And Peter’s pal Benjamin Bunny is whipped by his father when he too, sneaks into the McGregor garden for fun and lettuce.
The short stories in this book (the first of which was written in 1902) are full of tricksters, who then suffer horribly for their rule-breaking. Yet Peter goes right back into that garden…
Or consider that most popular of tricksters, the vampire, who chomps down on human blood, but hides in the shadows. The Society Of S, by Susan Hubbard (2007, filed in Adult Fiction), introduces us to an intensely sheltered 13-year-old girl.
Her father looks like “a gothic prince”; he is a biochemist who works in a secret lab in the basement. And there must be something wrong with her camera, because dad’s not in the photo she just took, only the chair in which he sat.
The teen is trying to understand who she is, while her father fears who – or what — she may become. This is a very readable yet literary book, filled with passages from Edgar Allen Poe and Jack Kerouac. Our youngster goes on the road to find her mother.
Author Tamora Pierce understands the double-edged sword that is the trickster. A fantasy writer, her Alanna quartet of books for young people tracks a young woman secretly training to be a knight; it’s not a proper profession for a female, and she’ll be in deep trouble if caught.
A few years on, Pierce followed up on the next generation with Trickster’s Choice (2003, filed in Young Adult, along with the sequel, Trickster’s Queen, and many other Pierce novels). But here it’s not the main character who adopts the trickster’s pose.
Aly is 16 and daughter of Alanna The Lioness. Her mother is now a famous knight who’s always off fighting wars, and her father is a glamourous spymaster. Aly, on the other hand, is bored.
She finds adventure when she’s kidnapped and sold as a slave.
Somehow, her life is being shaped by a trickster god, Kyprioth.
And even though Aly knows a trickster is as often enchanted by good as by evil, she has little choice but to trust Kyprioth when help is offered.
Gail Carson Levine is the perfect read for All Fools’ Day. Her book is titled Forgive Me, I Meant To Do It: False Apology Poems (2012, filed in C-150), and plays on the nursery rhymes and fairy tales we hear as children. But here, a rival for Jill’s affections tosses a banana peel at Jack’s feet, and is now dating the girl. And no, the litterer is not sorry at all.
“For those of you who lack an ounce of mean and are reading this book only for research into unpleasant people, you can write a real apology poem,” Levine helpfully suggests. “However, even this will not be possible if you are too angelic to have anything to apologize for.”
All these short verses have the same title: This Is Just To Say.
I already knew
the true princess test
I am a true
– Eleanor Brown, March 27, 2015