What do you do when you’re a princess and none of your suitors suits you? Princess Patricia Priscilla is turning 16 and she’s bored, bored, bored and not at all looking forward to her birthday ball, where she’ll have to select a suitor. There’s not a Prince Charming in the bunch. Duke Desmond of Dyspepsia has a face like a warthog, an odd tuft of copper-colored hair and huge, crooked brown teeth. Prince Percival of Pustula has serious dandruff and hair slicked with foul-smelling oil. And Colin and Cuthbert the Conjoint are attached together, so do they count as one suitor or two?

In a tale that plays on Cinderella and The Prince and the Pauper, the princess finds a fine way to relieve the boredom of her pampered existence—trade clothes with her chambermaid, become a peasant and go to school in the village. She loves school and her handsome young schoolmaster, who, not knowing her true identity, tells her she ought to train to become a schoolteacher herself. The princess learns the ways of the commoners and eventually involves them all in her big day, with hilarious results.

Readers with a princess in their lives will enjoy this high-spirited and charming tale of trading places, mistaken identities and long-lost siblings. Add to the mix a hard-of-hearing queen; an 80-year-old serving boy; and identical triplet kitchen maids who sing in three-part harmony—that is, until they meet Colin and Cuthbert and sing with them in five-part harmony—and you have another winner from Lowry, the two-time Newbery Medal winner who will deliver the 2011 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture.

Jules Feiffer’s trademark cartoonish illustrations heighten the whimsy and bring the cast of eccentric and lovable characters to quirky life in lines that somehow evoke the full range of character and emotion. The Birthday Ball is a happily-ever-after tale of a princess learning to take charge of her life, and laughter and surprises are in store for lucky readers.

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