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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Birthday Ball, written by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Houghton, Thomas Allen, 2010. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"A warthog has large upcurled tusks, and Duke Desmond, being human, had none. He did, however, have huge, crooked, brown-spotted teeth, and a tuft of coarse copper-colored hair; the two features combined to make him resemble such an animal, so the princess was not inaccurate in her description."

Putting Lois Lowry and Jules Feiffer together to create a book seems a match made in heaven. As she crafts wondrous words filled with wordplay and alliteration, he creates his signature pen and watercolor art to bring her spunky characters to life. Princess Patricia ­Priscilla has the lead in this original fairy tale by an honored and honorable team. The plot is simple...'Pat' is about to turn sixteen, a time when the young princess must choose a husband from a set of three unsuitable suitors. It is the Law of the Domain.

Patricia Priscilla is not your run-of-the-mill princess. She is not enaomored of the genteel life led by royalty. In fact, she finds her days to be quite boring. She is an independent young girl, with a wish to know more about the world around her, rather than the posh surroundings of the family palace.  The time is coming for her to choose a mate, and nothing is further from her mind. She trades places with her chambermaid, leaving her to read Alice In Wonderland and to let everyone know, who might be looking, that the princess is indisposed. Off she goes to attend school, where she meets Rafe, the teacher, who is quite interested in her bright mind and her concern for the other students.

I have read that this is a book that will appeal to fans of Roald Dahl, and I agree. The suitors will especially amuse with their appalling manners, their humorous peculiarities and their fully detailed descriptions. They would hold their own with the Twits, Aunts Spiker and Sponge and Miss Trunchbull. Anyone who has read other Lois Lowry books will know her ability to create character, and she proves herself adept at every turn. We come to know each minor and major player, through apt description and often humorous dialogue. Jules Feiffer provides emotion and action in his accompanying artwork.

The Birthday Ball is fun and will find an audience with readers who enjoy light fantasy, wrought with astute wordplay and wonderful characters, who each have a part to play in Princess Patricia's quest for a say in the way she will lead her life.

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