Draw April Fools' Day Joke Inspiration From Literature's Best Female Pranksters

There's no better holiday on the calendar than April Fools' Day for pranksters to shine. The mischievous minds come out to play and torment their friends, family, and coworkers for a full 24 hours, because frankly, we know it's coming so we're just waiting for something. But even if you're not the trickster type, you can join in on the fun in some harmless pranks, big or small — if you haven't yet signed John Oliver's anti-April Fools' Day pledge, that is — all you need is a little inspiration.

Literature is chock full of amazing pranks and pranksters, from children's books right up to adult literary fiction. There's William Shakespeare's Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and of course Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. But often the conniving ladies are overshadowed, even though they can beat the men at their own games. Heck, even some of our most famous female authors have gotten away with a practical joke or two in their day. For people who are happier reading alone on their couch than wreaking havoc on their office today, you can pull together a joke or two inspired by some of these literary con women. And believe me, if a 5-year-old can do it, so can you.

Matilda Wormwood

Matilda, at only 5 years old, wreaks havoc on her parents with a series of unforgettable pranks that are as simple as they are effective. And we all know her horrid parents deserved it. Matilda replaced her father's "hair tonic" with her mother's bleached blond hair dye, put superglue in her father's favorite hat, and my personal favorite, convinced her everyone there was a ghost haunting the house, even evil Miss Trunchbull. And while you (likely) don't have telekinetic powers from all your unused intelligence, it's the latter that would be most fun to imitate on April Fools' Day.

Take my big brother, for example, who always used to sit outside the living room window and change the TV channels with an extra remote while my sister and I were watching a show, and scare the crap out of us. And if you want to prank your parents, there's plenty of material for that.


Viola got away with what I like to refer to as a "long con." It's a big step above a prank, but it shows she has that prankster bone in her body. Viola and her brother Sebastian from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night did what every set of twins I've ever babysat did to me, they traded places and pretended to be each other to fool everyone that crossed their paths. They were the original Parent Trap. The only problem is, Viola has trouble following through on her prank because she falls for Duke Orsino, and then, basically, everyone falls in love with someone they think is someone else (seriously, read it) and everyone then pulls a prank to keep those cons going. It's a disaster, but this is a comedy, you guys, so it all works out.

So if you want to follow Viola's prank model, hurry up because you're already behind. You should probably start planning your long con for next year.

Scout Finch

Scout will be the first one to deny any involvement in pranks, but we readers know what's up, and we love her even more from it. When planning to attend a Halloween pageant at her school, she recounts an earlier Halloween, when "wicked children" snuck into the home of Tutti and Frutti Barber, two elderly deaf ladies, and hid all of their furniture in their basement. Don't worry, Scout, we'll keep your secret.

And if you've got the muscles, it's an easy, harmless prank to recreate on your friends.


Eloise has loads of pranks up her sleeves, and she waits for the opportune moment to pull one from the bank and use it. Maurice Sendak once called her, “that brazen loose-limbed delicious little girl monster," and I think it's perfect. Eloise was never bound by rules and got to play around in the best playground ever, the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Her pet turtle Skipperdee wears sneakers, she writes on the walls, goes to lunch in the Plaza Court wearing shoes on her ears, steals the A/C control switch from the hotel, and pours water down the mail chute. Basically, Eloise lives her whole life like it's April Fools' Day. Since we all kind of want to be her anyway, today is the day to be one of those "brazen loose-limbed delicious little monsters."

Alaska Young

Looking for Alaska is full of great pranks, but none better than one drawn from John Green's real life. Alaska and her pals Pudge and the Colonel decide to pull off an epic prank on their schools' Speaker Day. They pretend to hire an adult who will come and speak to the school about teen sexuality. Instead, they hire a male stripper who begins his show in front of the entire school. This would be an incredible prank to begin with, but Alaska and the others make it even better. They throw off the school administration by planning a smaller prank earlier in the day, lulling them into a sense of ease, thinking that the class prank is now over.

If you're planning a big prank today, people are going to be expecting it. So follow Alaska's plan and set off a red herring prank.

The Malloy Sisters

In Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's classic, the boys may have started the war, but the Malloy sisters will never back down. Their strategy in the prank war game is teamwork. Together, they can take on their pesky neighbors the Hatford brothers, as they each play different roles in increasingly elaborate pranks. (Yes, their names are a play on the Hatfields and McCoys.) These girls have learned from the past never to trust the Hatford boys, so when the boys try to lure the girls into their next prank, the girls are one step head. They pretend to go along with it, and then turn the tables on the boys.

And the lesson? Friends always make April Fool's Day better.

Virginia Woolf

Not a literary character, but a literary titan, bet you didn't know that Virginia Woolf was a famous prankster. She participated in the notorious Dreadnought hoax practical joke, where she, her brother, and a group of friends dressed as members of the Abyssinian royal family and sent a telegram the HMS Dreadnought, telling the admiral to expect a group of important passengers. She even forged a signature on the document. It worked, and the group was allowed onto the boat, even welcomed by the navy, flying a Zanzibar flag because they could not find an Abyssinian one. The prank wasn't figured out until the ringleader Horace de Vere Cole, whose ship had a rivalry with the Dreadnought, contacted the press to tell them of the hoax.

The hoax is widely regarded as one of the greatest in history. Doesn't that give you a new perspective on Woolf? Also, I would not suggest messing with the Navy today, just sit back and applaud Woolf's badass trickery.

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