cover image Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After

Anna Quindlen. Viking Children's Books, $13.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86961-9

Quindlen's breezy, farcical romp centers on a tomboy who loves reading fairy tales when she's not on the Little League field. When a magical baseball mitt unexpectedly grants Kate's wish to ""try being a princess sometime,"" she suddenly finds herself sitting in a stone tower, wearing a pink dress ""that laced up the front like a sneaker"" and a jeweled crown. Wreaking playful havoc with stock fairytale characters and cliches, Quindlen has Kate eluding the advances of a lovestruck suitor who sings ""some song about picking roses and watching beauty fade"" as he ignores the approach of first an enemy knight and then a dragon (Kate fends off both). Later, the prince leaves Kate to be captured by a witch and her troll sidekick, who just want Kate to teach them some games (""We only kidnap all of you [princesses] because we're so lonely out here,"" they confess). Stevenson limns the proceedings in thin black-and-white cartoons of armored knights on horseback, turreted castles and bemused royals and courtiers. While this isn't an especially weighty effort, the collision between the tale's make-believe sensibility and the heroine's down-to-earth, '90s attitude and jargon results in an appealingly glib prose style that's neatly tailored to kids. Ages 7-10. (Mar.)