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The Duchess of Whimsy

The Duchess of Whimsy

4.5 2
by Randall de Seve, Peter de Seve (Illustrator), Peter De Sa]ve (Illustrator)

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The great New Yorker artist Peter de Seve teams up with the author of bestselling Toy Boat in a slightly outrageous fairy tale.

The Duchess of Whimsy is fancy and fussy—and definitely not ordinary—surrounding herself with wild friends, fabulous foods, and fancy dress. The Earl of Norm (ho hum) is completely ordinary, but he adores the


The great New Yorker artist Peter de Seve teams up with the author of bestselling Toy Boat in a slightly outrageous fairy tale.

The Duchess of Whimsy is fancy and fussy—and definitely not ordinary—surrounding herself with wild friends, fabulous foods, and fancy dress. The Earl of Norm (ho hum) is completely ordinary, but he adores the Duchess. She ignores him, until the chef gets sick, and her friends have to make a super supper—which includes tracking down truffles, spinning sugar stars, and looking for quail eggs.

But the Earl is hungry! He sneaks off to an ordinary grilled cheese sandwich—and suddenly takes the Duchess’s eye. Maybe there’s something to simplicity after all. Maybe there’s something to the Earl after all . . .

This deliciously told and illustrated love story by the remarkable de Sèves shows how utterly charming and extraordinary a picture book can be.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite its witty tongue-in-cheek tone and quirky and exuberant artwork, this love story about an earl and an unconventional duchess blurs the line between “ordinary” and “extraordinary.” The narrator insists that the extravagant duchess of Whimsy is “the life of the party” while the earl of Norm is “as normal as they come.” But the earl, whose Ichabod Crane body is shown dressed in courtly finery, seems as eccentric as the rest of the courtiers, who Peter de Sève gleefully depicts with exaggerated hairstyles and facial expressions and wearing oceans of fabric. He wears a jaunty feather in his tall, lopsided hat, and in an effort to impress the duchess, he presents her with a giraffe who tries to eat the foliage on the courtier’s hats. He even composes “sugary poetry comparing the duchess to a squid, a platypus and a penguin.” Nonetheless, she continues to pronounce him “too ordinary!” It’s not until the earl of Norm shares his ordinary grilled cheese sandwich with the duchess that she wonders if she’s misjudged him, and in the happily-ever-after end, they both find each other to be “simply extraordinary!” Ages 4–up. (Oct.)
[A] dreamy delight...this charming picture book will appeal to sophisticated young readers who will find the happily-ever-after whimsically ordinary.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The Duchess of Whimsy is famous for her extravagant parties and attire as well as her most unusual pets, friends, and conversation. In contrast, the Earl of Normal is ordinary in every way. He is invited to her parties because her father the king wants their kingdoms to be friends. The earl finds the duchess enchanting, but his every attempt to impress her fails. She finds him too "ordinary." Then, one night, the duchess's cook falls ill. The other guests go to great lengths to try to produce something special for the duchess. Meanwhile, the earl makes "the only thing he knew how," grilled cheese sandwich and glass of milk. To everyone's surprise, this brings the unlikely pair together for a happy ending. Detailed watercolors use single pages and double-page scenes to depict the somewhat comic characters in their elaborate clothes. The very skinny earl is particularly engaging, while the duchess is a delightful flirt. The scene in the kitchen is amusingly chaotic, while the sequence of four vignettes as the duchess discovers the sandwich is a gem. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—The young Duchess of Whimsy is known far and wide as a person with esoteric tastes. Her parties are extravagant and she counts the most unusual people as her friends. Conversely, the Earl of Norm is as plain and ordinary as toast. He tries everything to impress the duchess, but she continues to find him lackluster. Nevertheless, her father wants her to cultivate the friendship so that their respective kingdoms may coexist peacefully. It is only when a crisis occurs on the night of one of her soirees that the duchess learns that ordinary may not be a bad word. This charming tale is playfully illustrated, portraying the duchess's world in crowded spreads that contrast with the earl's simple vignettes against a white background. The visuals tell the tale as vividly as the prose. This is a sure winner and a nice break from routine princess stories.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Kirkus Reviews
The free-spirited Duchess of Whimsy finds little to recommend the staid Earl of Norm, who is pragmatism personified. However, his adoration of her drives him to engage in outlandish antics to garner her attention. With droll wit, Randall de Seve recounts the tireless efforts of the misguided Earl as he attempts to court the impetuous Duchess. When her cook is stricken with illness prior to dinner, the Duchess learns to appreciate the practical nature of her suitor, with a little help from his grilled-cheese sandwich. Husband Peter de Seve's illustrations bring the capricious Duchess and her steady suitor to life in his picture-book debut, with frills and furbelows galore, as well as a towering, plume-adorned beehive hairdo for the Duchess. Lavish spreads set against refreshing white space playfully merge the ordinary with the extraordinary, giving readers a fey and enchanting world to peruse-a high-spirited salute to the adage that opposites attract. (Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.28(w) x 11.24(h) x 0.42(d)
AD910L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

What People are Saying About This

Elizabeth Bird
"The ordinary and the extraordinary combine in a book that is certain to be beloved by every ordinary and extraordinary child out there today. Magical."--(Elizabeth Bird, Fuse #8 blog)

Meet the Author

Randall de SŠve and Peter de SŠve live in Brooklyn, New York.

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The Duchess of Whimsy 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book and i think it great to one of a kind but it also tells you that being normal is just as amazing. I would recomend this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AMF7 More than 1 year ago
Eye catching illustrations with a simple, truthful message. Appropriate for the a child 8 years or younger and those adults who appreciate well, written and well done illustrations. AMF7