Barrel of Laughs: A Vale of Tears

Barrel of Laughs: A Vale of Tears

by Jules Feiffer

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'Prince Roger sets out eagerly on a quest and finds a few adventures, a lot of friends, a damsel or two in distress (not!) and himself, in the end. A 'carrier of joy' whose mere presence causes everyone to laugh uncontrollably, Roger finds cruelty and kindness equally amusing, and expects his quest to be a lark. It's anything but: As Roger passes through the

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'Prince Roger sets out eagerly on a quest and finds a few adventures, a lot of friends, a damsel or two in distress (not!) and himself, in the end. A 'carrier of joy' whose mere presence causes everyone to laugh uncontrollably, Roger finds cruelty and kindness equally amusing, and expects his quest to be a lark. It's anything but: As Roger passes through the Forever Forest, nearly starves at the Dastardly Divide, sees people at their worst in the Valley of Vengeance, and temporarily despairs in the Mountains of Malice, he sobers up, learns to care for others, becomes an expert peacemaker, does Good Deeds, and falls in love with Lady Sadie, who says what she thinks as she repeatedly saves his bacon.'—K. 'Feiffer's worldly-wise, confiding tone and sense of the absurd are highly congenial, and the drawings are a vintage Feiffer delight.'—Publishers Weekly.

100 Books for Reading and Sharing 1995 (NY Public Library)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An inordinately cheerful prince embarks on a quest for greater gravity. "Feiffer's worldly-wise, confiding tone and sense of the absurd are highly congenial, and the drawings are a vintage Feiffer delight," said PW. All ages. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Feiffer's second children's book is a free wheeling fantasy, or as Feiffer puts it, a tale "about a man who goes on a quest that turns into chaos and comes out changed. I'm a great believer in chaos bringing good fortune," he adds. The hero is Prince Roger, who amuses those around him so much that they fall down laughing. That is until resident wizard, J. Wellington Wizard, sends Roger on a quest from the Forever Forest, through the Dastardly Divide, on to the Valley of Vengeance, across the Sea of Screams and the Mountain of Malice. The quest is full of twist, turns, and a host of wonderful characters and Roger struggles to understand himself and the strange world around him. Everything he sees and everyone he meets impacts him until he emerges a more contemplative person who, in the middle of his happily ever after, realizes "that in his lifetime there might be a hundred more quests, quests of all kinds waiting out there to be found."
Children's Literature - Tim Whitney
Roger makes everyone laugh. Kings, wizards, peasants, and even animals cannot stop themselves from cracking up when Roger is around. But Roger's gift of inspiring laughter is not becoming of a prince, so his father good King Whatchamacallit and J. Wellington Wizard send Roger on a quest to become a more serious person and a more worthy monarch. Although Roger does everything wrong on his great quest, he does get the meaning of life right. The reader is reminded of Jon Sciezka's writing as the characters disobey the author's wishes in this fairy tale of nonsensical humor. The story is delightfully funny, with a message about life at the end.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7Feiffer has taken a six-frame comic strip and turned it into a 180-page book geared toward an elementary crowd but not written on their level. Prince Roger is uncontrollably hilarious, so the king (who only speaks spoonerisms) gets his wizard to send Roger on an undefined quest so the kingdom can get respite from all that arduous laughing. The alliterative Feiffer gives Roger a variety of way stations on his quest for his quest, including the Forever Forest (from which there is no escape), the Dastardly Divide (from which there is no escape), the Valley of Vengeance (etc.), etc. An autonomous fellow, Tom, a simple hunter, literally walks in and out of the bookand in and out of troubleand along the way changes from Roger's best friend to his bittersweet enemy. Rounding out the cast are a ``plainspoken'' lady-in-waiting; a beautiful princess; a clumsy, lovelorn giant; and a ``serene'' sorceress. There's some semblance of a bona fide plot here revolving around Roger's adventures, but the intrusive omniscient author quickly grows tiresome and the jokes too often fall maddeningly flat. Feiffer's delightful line drawings and quirky imagination just can't save this sprawling story.John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.75(w) x 8.87(h) x 0.41(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Hunter of Boar or Stag

Roger had a strange effect on people.

Take this guy. See how grumpy he is?

He's been grumpy since he got out of bed, stepped on his little boy'sbeach ball, slid halfway across the house, and flew out the window intothe rosebush. Wouldn't you be grumpy with a dozen thorns in your head?

Don't get too interested in this character. He's in our story just as anexample and we'll leave him forever in nine pages.

Now here is our guy trekking through the forest, hunting boar or huntingstag—something like that-because that's what men did in Roger's day.They got up in the morning and said, "Wife, I am going out to hunt," andWife said, "What will you bring home today, Husband, boar or stag? " Andthe man of the house would reply, "Whatever," because it really didn'tmatter: all food tasted the same (not too good) in those days. Ketchuphadn't been invented.

So he's trekking through the woods-trek, trek, trek-a big frown on hisface because he's thinking: "Why does everything happen to me? First Itrip on my kid's ball, get a crownful of thorns, stub my toe on thedoorsill, get laughed at by my wife who calls me a clumsy oaf, which Iam, but if she truly loved me she wouldn't say so. I hate mywife—er—that is, my life. I also hate hunting boar or stag. I shouldhave been a blacksmith. Thank the Lord that in eight more pages I'll beout of this book forever!"

He's thinking all this garbage when, for no reason at all,

the frown leaves his face.

He treks still another five yards and, for no reason at all, hegrins from ear to ear.

He treks another five yards and, for no reason at all, he smiles.

And he feels wonderful, better than he has since he won last year's sackrace at the Peasants' Picnic.

Now, although I've written "for no reason at all"-and repeated ittwice-there was a reason. The hunter didn't realize that Roger wastrekking toward him from the opposite direction.

And the closer Roger got to him, the more cheerful the hunter became.That was the effect Roger had on people. He made them feel good.

He didn't do anything to make them feel good. He didn't tell jokes. Hedidn't try to please-he didn't have to: he was a prince.

Roger was the son of kindly King Whatchamacallit. And, being a prince,he had the right to be stern, haughty, and bad-tempered. Except hecouldn't be, because he didn't know what it was to be stern, haughty, orbad-tempered. He had never seen any examples. He had never seen hisfather, the king, throw a fit, or his dear departed mother, the queen,stamp her foot in anger. Nor had he seen out of sorts any of the king's ministers, courtiers, chefs,servants, maids, or lackeys. Not once since his birth had he heard anangry scream, shout, curse, or quarrel. Not once had he seen a tear,unless it was tears of joy. And of those he saw many.

Because Roger was a carrier of joy, he spread it before him. It glowedoff his presence like the rays of the sun. He was a special delight tohis mother, and the thought of this he found particularly gratifyingbecause of her sudden demise. Out for a swim one day, she'd beenswallowed by a blue whale.

He missed his mother, but whales were his favorite mammal and blue washis favorite color, so, if she had to go, that didn't seem like such abad way. After a while, Roger came to smile at the thought of that bluewhale on that bright green sea gulping down his mother in a redstripedswimming costume as if she was a candy cane. Everything in life amusedRoger. Here he is waking up in the morning.

This is the morning he planned to go horseback riding on the royalgrounds. But it's a terrible day. It's raining. Not only is it raining,it's sleeting and hailing at the same time. Hailstones, sounding likegunshots, bounce off the palace walls. So what does Roger say to himselfas he looks out the window? He says: "Wow! I'll get drenched to myloincloth in two seconds flat if I go out in this. I can't wait!"

He doesn't go back to bed and read a royal book or magazine as anyprince in his right mind might do. He goes out and gets soaked andslapped around by hailstones and-if you can believe it-he has a goodtime.

Everything, significant or insignificant, gave Roger a good time.Brushing his teeth gave him a good time. Eating and sleeping gave him agood time. Sport amused him: hunting, archery, jousting. Kindness amusedhim, but no more than cruelty. Fat people, skinny people, rich people,poor people, vagrants, all caused him to giggle. People who lived incastles with dozens of servants they couldn't keep track of, this gavehim a good laugh.

Roger's remarkably high spirits cast a spell over anyone or anything whocame within a half mile of him.

Dogs ceased chasing cats.

Cats quit chasing birds. Birds were charmed out of the trees and stoppedhunting worms.

Worms curled and uncurled in spasms of glee.

And laughing hyenas laughed so extra-hard they had to stuff their mouthswith dead branches and foul-tasting foliage in order to regain theircomposure.

By now, you get the picture. And here's our friend, the hunter, back inthe picture.

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