cover image The Birthday Ball

The Birthday Ball

Lois Lowry, , illus. by Jules Feiffer. . Houghton Mifflin, $16 (186pp) ISBN 978-0-547-23869-2

Lowry uses her knack for cleverly turning familiar stories on their heads (last seen in The Willoughbys ) in this tale about a princess who's utterly bored with privileged palace life. With her 16th birthday and her mandatory choice of a husband fast approaching (at least she gets a choice, unlike most fairy tale princesses in her situation), Princess Patricia Priscilla hatches a plan to pose as a student at the village schoolhouse for a taste of freedom before her big day, when she will be expected to choose a suitor. Readers will quickly see why the top contenders—Prince Percival of Pustula, Duke Desmond of Dyspepsia, and the conjoined Counts of Coagulatia are still “eligible” bachelors—and will have no trouble guessing her best match. Throughout, Feiffer's wiry ink illustrations paint the characters in offhand caricatures, adding to the merriment. Employing elements from the “Prince and the Pauper” as well as ample doses of humor and slapstick, Lowry sets the stage for a rowdy denouement. The emphasis never strays from the predictable or silly, but fans won't mind. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)