cover image The Birthday Queen

The Birthday Queen

Audrey Wood, illus. by Don Wood. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-545-41474-6

If Christmas has Santa Claus and teeth have the Tooth Fairy, why not a Birthday Queen for birthdays? The Woods (It’s Duffy Time!) imagine a magical, multitasking regent who’s an indefatigable combination of party planner, Under­writers Laboratory (“When her clowns are invited to parties, the Birthday Queen must make sure they are funny”), fixer (if the bakery screws up a cake order, she whips up a substitute), and hostess with the mostess. Any resemblance between the Birthday Queen and a young celebrant’s mother, is, of course, coincidental. Audrey Wood’s short, breezy prose and Don Wood’s candy-colored spreads, which mingle slapstick with surrealism, hold sentimentality at bay; a gift-wrapping scene is a riot of wrapping paper, tape, and birthday magic, which comes courtesy of the queen’s three wands. But let’s face it: this is a tribute intended to spark at least the flickers of gratitude in the hearts of birthday boys and girls. As such, it’s more likely to be appreciated by Birthday Queens themselves (or anyone else who’s helmed a children’s party) than by those whose birthdays are being celebrated. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)