cover image Tumble Tower

Tumble Tower

Anne Tyler, Ann Tyler. Scholastic, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05497-0

Princess Molly the Messy belongs to a family of royal neatniks: King Clement the Clean, Queen Nellie the Neat and Prince Thomas the Tidy. Her room in the castle's tower is a much-lamented disaster, but when a flash flood drives the family from the lower floors, the ``Den of Disorder'' turns out to contain all the creature comforts needed for a convivial night--spare pajamas, leftover snacks and books handily tucked under the pillow. Novelist Tyler, in her first book for children, offers a nimble, witty treatment of a somewhat worn topic. Her pithy portrayals of the hyper-organized, self-righteous royal cleaners-up will tickle all those who share Molly's talent for tumult, as will the comically exaggerated disarray of the tower (the floor harbors outgrown clothes; the window frames a flourishing orange tree sprouted from a long-ago treat). The plot's live-and-let-live moral is neatly reciprocal: Molly helps restore the castle's main quarters to shipshape condition after the flood, and the others come to appreciate just a tad of clutter in their own rooms. Debut artist Modarressi, Tyler's daughter, deftly mixes gentle colors and sharp planes in her distinctive watercolors. With the otherworldly, angular faces of the characters and the profusion of details, patterns and objects, her illustrations hint at the dreaminess of Modigliani and the cozy amiability of Ernest Shepard. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)