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Your KS #57: Katharine’s secret pseudonym, ‘Val West’

I’ve found a lost Katharine Susannah Prichard book—sort of—and a pseudonym so secret she never knew about it. Some time after Katharine travelled with Wirth’s Circus in 1927 to research Haxby’s Circus, Gladys Wirth asked her to write a children’s circus story that could be sold with the lollies and peanuts. Katharine duly composed The Story of Frisky: How He Become a Clever Circus Pony and was paid fifty pounds for it. She never actually saw the published book, but this year I was quite surprised to find a copy being sold by a second-hand dealer in New Zealand. It’s surprising the flimsy booklet —complete with two pictures of clowns for children to paint—has survived a night at the circus and the decades since. For some reason, Katharine has been given the pseudonym ‘Val West’; her real name surely would have sold extra copies. Katharine did eventually publish the story properly under her own name and dedicated it to her two younger grandchildren, Querida and Jim. It came out in 1967 with the title Moggie and Her Circus Pony, perhaps because ‘Frisky’ didn’t seem the most appropriate name for a children’s book. It is beautifully illustrated by Elaine Haxton as part of a series pairing Australian writers and artists in books for children; other authors in the series include Colin Thiele and Ivan Southall.

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