Sunday, July 5, 2015

The birthday ball by Lois Lowry illustrated by Jules Feiffer

I picked up this book, The Birthday Ball,  last week because it was written by the talented Lois Lowry.  Sadly I would not have picked this book up from the hundreds of new titles we have ready for our library based on the cover which I do not like.  Do you?

Luckily the cover did not sway me.  This is a terrific read for a middle primary student and could be useful for teachers looking for detailed, if somewhat vile, character descriptions.  There are three or perhaps four suitors all vying for the hand of Princess Patricia Priscilla.  The Princess, meanwhile, is bored with life at court and so she decides to dress as a peasant girl and attend the local school.

Duke Desmond of Dyspepsia had "huge, crooked, brown-spotted teeth, and a tuft of coarse copper-coloured hair."  You can see the illustration of him below.

Prince Percival of Pustula "dressed entirely in black, always.  Even his underclothing was black. His hair had once been a nondescript brown, but he kept it dyed jet black and thickly oiled.  His mustache, as well."

Count Colin and Count Cuthbert the Counts of Coagulatia wore clothing "specially made, with four arms and four legs and two neck-holes, and a very wide waist." They are conjoint twins who are determined to annoy each other.

Lois Lowry uses a rich vocabulary in this fairy tale style romp.  The Princess has a cat called Delicious.

"It's nutritious, Delicious."
"Stop looking avaricious, Delicious"
"Your size is ambitious, Delicious"
"The size of your tummy was suspicious, Delicious!"

Here is a review from the New York Times and another with quite a detailed description of the plot and characters I mentioned previously.  I highly recommend reading any book by Lois Lowry - you will not be disappointed.  Back to that cover.  I think it makes the Princess look ugly and perhaps frivolous and she is neither of these things.  She is a special girl.  This is especially borne out in the care an attention she gives to a little orphan girl who is also attending the school in the village. The ugly repulsive prince suitors on the other hand are perfectly depicted.  Jules Feiffer is the illustrator of the classic book The Phantom Tollbooth.

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