The Duchess of Whimsy Book Poster Image

The Duchess of Whimsy



Spirited, funny tale of an unlikely friendship.

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

The lesson here is that appearances can be deceiving: The earl proves to be much more engaging than expected, and for all her antics the duchess has some depth. It’s a nice alternative to conventional princess stories.

Positive role models

The Earl of Norm is patient, persistent, and ultimately true to himself. The Duchess of Whimsy, once she gives the earl half a chance, is open-minded and friendly to her suitor.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know the vocabulary in this well-written fairy tale will challenge -- and very possibly put off -- younger readers.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

The Duchess of Whimsy is the life of the party, but her admirer, the Earl of Norm, is far too ordinary to attract her interest. He goes to great lengths, presenting clumsy poetry and borrowing ill-suited clothes, but nothing works. Until one day, when the cook falls ill and the duchess’ guests scramble to prepare an exotic feast, and the earl’s humble, sensible grilled cheese sandwich draws her attention. The two share the sandwich and find they have much more than tastes in common once they finally start talking.

Is it any good?


Randall and Peter de Seve have dished up a charming story that teaches a valuable lesson with a considerable dose of humor and joy. Randall de Seve brings together her odd couple with a sparkling story that evokes both princess fantasies and the grade-school cafeteria social order. The exuberant artwork by Peter de Seve -- well-known for his New Yorker covers, among other work -- are crammed with funny details that will entrance kids.

Like the duchess herself, everything about this book is lavish and extravagant, from the expressive illustrations to the lyrical, elegant language. The latter, however, may put off some younger kids. The first readings will very likely require frequent interruptions to define unfamiliar words: The first few pages alone toss out soirees, attire, rutted, manor, apparel, and joie de vivre. Patient kids who enjoy wordplay will stick with it and feel rewarded, but less eager readers may give up.

Beautiful, funny, and, yes, whimsical illustrations add magic to a fairy tale courtship.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about making friends. Why isn’t the duchess interested in getting to know the earl at first? Why do his attempts to impress her fail?

  • Have you ever changed your mind about someone you didn’t think you wanted for a friend?

Book details

Author:Randall de Seve
Illustrator:Peter de Seve
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:October 29, 2009
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8

This review of The Duchess of Whimsy was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love fairy tales and humor

External sites

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement