Once Upon a Time- page 1 | People & Places | Smithsonian

Once Upon a Time

Children's books by celebrities are as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here are our favorites

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Jerry Seinfeld, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Cosby, Julie Andrews, Spike Lee—all have written children’s books in the past few years. But it’s not a recent trend. Famous people dabbling in this lucrative genre is a centuries-old practice. We unearthed these lesser-known works from well-known personages.

Girls Are From Isis, Boys Are From Ra
by Cleopatra

Whether he’s from Egypt or Rome, whether he’s your boyfriend or brother (or both), whether he’s conquering your country or your heart, a boy is as mysterious as a sphinx. What’s on a boy’s mind? What do boys like in girls? Will they be just as difficult in the afterlife? The queen spells it out for you in plain and simple hieroglyphs, also sharing her advice on headdress maintenance and what to do if you haven’t married by the age of 10, as well as tips for the proper care and grooming of your pet asp.

Why Daddy Had Mommy Beheaded
by Henry VIII

With this touching story of coping, King Henry helps royal offspring everywhere adjust to the unpleasant realities of monarchy. Young Princess Jennifer wakes up one day to find Mommy gone. Neither handmaiden nor castle guard can tell Jennifer where her mother went, so she asks Daddy, the king. Gently, Daddy tells Jennifer that Mommy went to the Kingdom of Uxoricide with a friend and won’t be coming back. He says Jennifer is getting a new mommy very soon, and a brother!—that is, if the new mommy knows what’s good for her. Jennifer is sad until she meets her new mommy, who brings her gynger brede and plays dice with her. Oh, what fun they’ll have together!

Paulette’s Adventure Among the Rabble
by Marie Antoinette

Detained by a broken carriage wheel en route to a ball at the dauphin’s château, young Paulette steps outside for a bit of fresh air. And there she sees a real live peasant! Though crass and vulgar, the peasant is kind and respectful to Paulette, and helps the coachman repair the wheel. As a token of her appreciation, Paulette lets the peasant kiss her begloved hand. She immediately burns the glove, of course, and goes home to change her gown, but, even so, she tells her friends at the ball that peasants aren’t so bad after all. Read the book that every child of the court is raving about, the first work by Her Majesty!

The Voices and I Have a Grand Day Out
by Joan of Arc

It’s just another boring day on the farm for Joanie until the voices of the saints pay a visit. "Let’s have some fun!" they say. So Joanie—always the tomboy!—puts aside her chores and joins her special friends for an afternoon to remember: skipping stones in the creek, turning cartwheels in the field, swiping a hunk of Brie from Farmer Pierre. Joanie has such a good time that she almost cries when the sun goes down and the voices have to leave. "Don’t worry, we’ll be back real soon," they say. "That would be swell!" says Joanie, nodding off to pleasant dreams of slaughtering Englishmen.

The Rainy Day Fun Manifesto
by Karl Marx

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