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The Birthday Ball Hardcover – April 28, 2010

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 054723869X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547238692
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,468,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description
Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with her royal life and the excitement surrounding her sixteenth birthday ball. Doomed to endure courtship by three grotesquely unappealing noblemen, she escapes her fate--for a week. Disguised as a peasant, she attends the village school as the smart new girl, "Pat," and attracts friends and the attention of the handsome schoolmaster. Disgusting suitors, lovable peasants, and the clueless king and queen collide at the ball, where Princess Patricia Priscilla calls the shots. What began as a cure for boredom becomes a chance for Princess Patricia Priscilla to break the rules and marry the man she loves.

A Q&A with Lois Lowry, Author of The Birthday Ball

Q: In the book, Princess Patricia Priscilla disguises herself as a peasant to attend school. Have you ever gone anywhere incognito?

A: Funny you asked! Back when I used to write for the Maine Times, I once took off my wedding ring and went to a singles dance. Such events were unusual back then--this would have been early 1970s. I remember meeting--and dancing with--a guy whose occupation was gravedigger. "That's seasonal work, of course," he said.

Q: Many of your books end with people finding strength or love or hope in another human being. Do you set out to impart a message of kindness in your work?

A: No, I never set out with anything. But when on my Facebook profile there was a place to fill in "Religion," I typed in "the Dalai Lama." I did so not because I am Buddhist--I'm not--but because I remembered reading that he once said "My religion is kindness." That seems the best sort of message, to me.

Q: Your first book was published in 1977. How do you think publishing for young people has changed since then? And have you noticed a difference in how kids interact with authors and the kinds of questions they ask you?

A: Writing for kids has become a very trendy occupation. Probably soon "children’s author" will replace "lawyer" as the answer to "What is virtually everybody becoming?" And so it is now a more competitive field, which is probably a good thing, because competition always raises the quality. But on the downside, it has become more commercial, I think, and sometimes less literary.
As far as kids' communication, in the early days it was handwritten, heartfelt letters. Now it is more often unpunctuated, school-assignment e-mails. With wonderful exceptions, of course.

The covers of Lois Lowry's books often have interesting stories and personal connections to Lowry. Here she talks about a few:

The Giver (1993):
I was doing a magazine article about Carl Nelson, a painter who lived on an island off the coast of Maine. By the time I wrote The Giver, he had died, but I had saved some of the photos I had done and used one the cover.

Messenger (2004):
This features a wonderful boy named Jesse, fourteen years old when I photographed him, and growing his first mustache. He offered to shave but I told him he didn't need to; I shaved off his mustache with Photoshop.

Number the Stars (1989):
The photograph on Number the Stars is of a family friend's daughter, taken originally as a portrait. Anna Katerina Johnson, who was ten when her parents hired me to photograph her in 1977, now has four children of her own.

The Silent Boy (2003):
This cover photograph was taken by my grandmother's sister, Mary Fulton Boyd, in 1912. She grew up in Pennsylvania, and after college went to New York to study photography--such a bold step for a woman in that era! I always admired her, and she left me her photographs when she died.

The Willoughbys (2008):
Illustrated by me!

(Photo © Neil Giordano)

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–8—Princess Patricia Priscilla will soon be 16, marrying age in her kingdom. A birthday ball is planned where suitors will woo her. The very bored princess knows that once she is married, she will not have much freedom, so she swaps clothes with her chambermaid to spend the week as a peasant girl attending the village school. There she meets the handsome, sweetly smart schoolteacher. Meanwhile, the suitors, each awful in his own way, prepare for the ball, as do the princess's parents: the hard-of-hearing queen and the easily distracted king. This is not a kingdom in which royalty is feared; the princess is playful and smart and her servants are cheerful and curious. Everyone is hardworking and upbeat. Lowry obviously has fun with wordplay and puns. The princess has a cat named Delicious to whom she always speaks teasingly. For example, when she eyes some birds, the princess tells her, "Don't be malicious, Delicious." There is some tension about who the princess will marry, the suitors being wonderfully flawed, but the author does not make readers worry unduly. This is a captivating but gentle fairy tale with memorable characters and wonderfully swirly, evocative, energetic character sketches by the fabulous Feiffer.—Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After several years at Brown University, she turned to her family and to writing. She is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader.s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association.s Children.s Book Award. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at

author interview

Q. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

A. I cannot remember ever not wanting to be a writer.

Q. What inspired you to write The Giver?

A. Kids always ask what inspired me to write a particular book or how did I get an idea for a particular book, and often it's very easy to answer that because books like the Anastasia books come from a specific thing; some little event triggers an idea. But a book like The Giver is a much more complicated book, and therefore it comes from much more complicated places--and many of them are probably things that I don't even recognize myself anymore, if I ever did. So it's not an easy question to answer.

I will say that the whole concept of memory is one that interests me a great deal. I'm not sure why that is, but I've always been fascinated by the thought of what memory is and what it does and how it works and what we learn from it. And so I think probably that interest of my own and that particular subject was the origin, one of many, of The Giver.

Q. How did you decide what Jonas should take on his journey?

A. Why does Jonas take what he does on his journey? He doesn't have much time when he sets out. He originally plans to make the trip farther along in time, and he plans to prepare for it better. But then, because of circumstances, he has to set out in a very hasty fashion. So what he chooses is out of necessity. He takes food because he needs to survive. He takes the bicycle because he needs to hurry and the bike is faster than legs. And he takes the baby because he is going out to create a future. And babies always represent the future in the same way children represent the future to adults. And so Jonas takes the baby so the baby's life will be saved, but he takes the baby also in order to begin again with a new life.

Q. When you wrote the ending, were you afraid some readers would want more details or did you want to leave the ending open to individual interpretation?

A. Many kids want a more specific ending to The Giver. Some write, or ask me when they see me, to spell it out exactly. And I don't do that. And the reason is because The Giver is many things to many different people. People bring to it their own complicated beliefs and hopes and dreams and fears and all of that. So I don't want to put my own feelings into it, my own beliefs, and ruin that for people who create their own endings in their minds.

Q. Is it an optimistic ending? Does Jonas survive?

A. I will say that I find it an optimistic ending. How could it not be an optimistic ending, a happy ending, when that house is there with its lights on and music is playing? So I'm always kind of surprised and disappointed when some people tell me that they think the boy and the baby just die. I don't think they die. What form their new life takes is something I like people to figure out for themselves. And each person will give it a different ending. I think they're out there somewhere and I think that their life has changed and their life is happy, and I would like to think that's true for the people they left behind as well.

Q. In what way is your book Gathering Blue a companion to The Giver?

A. Gathering Blue postulates a world of the future, as The Giver does. I simply created a different kind of world, one that had regressed instead of leaping forward technologically as the world of The Giver has. It was fascinating to explore the savagery of such a world. I began to feel that maybe it coexisted with Jonas's world . . . and that therefore Jonas could be a part of it in a tangential way. So there is a reference to a boy with light eyes at the end of Gathering Blue. He can be Jonas or not, as you wish.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#4 Overall (See top 100 authors)
#2 in Books > Teens
#4 in Books
#2 in Books > Teens
#4 in Books

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Customer Reviews

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See all 41 customer reviews
You'll have to read the rest of the book to find out what happens in the end!
R. Lanthier
Upper elementary school girls will enjoy this book, which I think would be fun to read aloud, you could talk about some of the interesting vocabulary.
Overall this was a fun book with some adventure, some morals, and written in a wonderful writing style by author Lois Lowry.
Karyn W

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kate McMurry TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Princess Patricia Priscilla has every luxury a royal girl could want, but she's utterly bored. Not even the prospect of a huge ball in honor of her sixteenth birthday within the next few days can catch her interest. Then she comes up with a marvelous plan. She'll borrow her maid's "rustic" clothing, go down to the village below the castle, and live like a peasant. The first person she meets in the village is an eighteen-year-old, first-time school teacher named Rafe. He's as kind as he is handsome, but Rafe works hard to be firm with his students and command respect, especially from "Pat," the name the princess gives him.

Lois Lowry is a wonderful writer. She tells this story in a comic, fairy-tale voice which allows us to peek into the heads of all sorts of characters, from the kitchen staff to the princess, to the school master, to the horrible suitors who want to marry the young princess. And each character's perspective is unique and very funny.

This story has a very upbeat ending that is just what one might hope it would be without it being predictable. Precocious readers from second grade could appreciate this book, and girls all the way through sixth grade might enjoy it as well.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By bored99 VINE VOICE on March 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A spoiled princess you can't help but love, a cadre of princes you love to hate, quirky but well-meaning parents, plus peasants who sing and encourage... a delightful mix to read. The ending is somewhat predictable, but it's fun to watch the characters develop and ultimately come together. The terrible princes are entrancing like a train wreck--"he smoothed his hair and then wiped his hand free of the hair oil, using the bedsheet and leaving a smear of black dye," while the peasants are unexpectedly helpful and encouraging--some serving maids sing in three-part harmony, hoping to be noticed and promoted, while the pulley boy is positively attractive. With characters like this, it's not surprising to see a non-traditional ending that's still quite satisfying.

As a parent, I appreciated the vocabulary words that were introduced in a fun way, such as "don't be avaricious, Delicious" (said to a cat), or neighboring kingdoms named Analgesia, Coagulatia, Dyspepsia... the words are worth a laugh for kids who know them or look them up, but not distracting for others. There are enough dresses and romance for any girl who'd pick up a book titled "The Birthday Ball," and yet the book avoids the traditional trap of implying these are life's ultimate goals. As a children's lit fan, I enjoyed the book, and as a parent, I enjoyed the things it subtly teaches.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Heather on January 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I love Lois Lowry, and as an elementary school teacher, have read all of her work and shared it with many students. However, this book was a let down. It started off well, but contained many unflattering words that are not appropriate for children. Also the ending seemed incomplete and rushed. I was disappointed in the quality of this story though the plot and characters offered promise, but in the end did not live up to the greatness of Lois Lowry.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anne TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just finished reading The Birthday Ball. As I read the first chapter, I was reminded of what a wonderful writer Lois Lowery is. Her descriptions were vivid, yet fun. At first, I was put off by the illustration on the cover, but as I opened up the book, I enjoyed the other illustrations much more. The illustrations remind me a bit of some of Roald Dahl's books. And this book actually reminds me of a few of his stories as well.

The plot as many reviewers share in their reviews is about a princes who pretends to be a princess for a few days and attends the village school. In 5 days, she is to have a birthday ball where she will choose a suitor to be her husband. She dreads the event, but enjoys every moment in the school. The suitors are to be dreaded by their descriptions, but that makes the end all the more fun.

This story truly is a fun fairy tale. It is refreshing that the princess cares about people and not just herself. She is a good example of how to care about other people. I think this story would be good for 4th-6th graders. There is some description of the men and their physique, but it's far more tame than most tween books, I fear. And for that, I am glad. I would be comfortable reading this aloud with my daughters when they are in 4th grade or for them to read it on their own in 5th or 6th grade. This is a very innocent and fun book which I loved as a parent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jordan K. Henrichs on June 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've recently become a father to a beautiful, four-month old baby girl. My wife and I, both elementary teachers, have already begun to fill her bookshelves with books like PINKALICIOUS and FANCY NANCY. I mention this only because a book like THE BIRTHDAY BALL is not a book I would normally gravitate to. I'll blame it on a new-found second nature, the grabbing of the lavender covered book, adorned with a sloppily drawn princess front and center, off our local library's shelf. But truth be told, it's authored by none other than Lois Lowry. The Lois Lowry of NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER fame. So on the record, it was because of my princess of a daughter that I grabbed this book. Off the record, I actually wanted to read it!

Princess Patricia Priscilla is terribly bored. Her mother cannot hear a word she says and her father is too busy tending to his collection of butterflies to care what she's up to. So bored she sits, in her castle, day after day with her chambermaid Tess tending to her every need. Until one day, Patricia coerces Tess into borrowing her identity and disguising herself as a peasant. She wants to dirty herself up. She wants to play in the streets, unnoticed. More than anything, she wants to go to school. But there's one problem. In mere days, Princess Patricia Priscilla will turn sixteen. And according to the Law of the Domain, age sixteen is when she must become a bride. Three unlikely suitors are traveling from far and wide to make their intent to marry public at Princess Patricia Priscilla's sweet sixteen Birthday Ball. But what will Princess Pat's intentions be?

This book was not at all what I expected. Here I was feeling less of a man for picking up this lavender princess story, only to find it filled to the brim with burping and farting jokes!
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