The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry. Illustrations by Jules Feiffer. This is a sweet little book from heavy hitter and Newbury-award winning author Lowry. The Princess Patricia Priscilla is about to turn 16 and is bored with everything. Bored with her life, bored with the idea of the ball in honor of her birthday, bored with the thought of having to choose a husband. After talking with her maid, she decides to borrow her maid’s clothes and attend the local village school just for something fun to do. There, she gets educated in what life is like for the peasantry and falls for the handsome young school teacher. Breaks from this story introduce the princess’s would-be suitors, all odious men from places with names like Dyspepsia. It’s a light tale for younger chapter book readers, with modern elements mixed into the setting adding to this feel, as well – one of the suitors, for example dresses in spandex, and the maid, trapped in the princess’s suite waiting for the return of her dress, reads Alice in Wonderland. The scribbly illustrations are by Jules Feiffer, whose work I recognized from my childhood reading of The Phantom Tollbooth. Will Patricia find a way out of having to choose from the odious suitors? I would have found this book just a bit better if the choice weren’t quite so clear, but it’s still a fun story for princess-obsessed girls. Pair it with The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye or Patricia Wrede’s slightly meatier Dealing with Dragons.
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