A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears

by Jules Feiffer (1995)

Incurs surcharge when selected for OSOB and other RTT family literacy programs.

Jules Feiffer is primarily known as a cartoonist and the author of delightful children’s picture books like I Lost My Bear and Meanwhile. But he also brings his inventive flair and irreverent wit to the children’s novel A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears. Yes, it’s a cumbersome title – but that’s just one of the things you’ll have to find or figure out for yourself by entering its charming, unexpected pages. A fairy tale setting, where anything can happen – including hijinks that upset the author…and are guaranteed to amuse children. More importantly, Feiffer is able to write strong, literary sentences, and not afraid to indulge in rich, valuable, entertaining vocabulary. Best of all, along with the brisk, unexpected plot developments and irreverent prose, Feiffer manages to impart some true, gentle, long-lasting wisdom. His characters grow and learn – just as each family will when they are finally able to figure out what the title actually means. All that, and not to forget Feiffer’s winsome, Pulitzer Prize-winning line drawings, which enrich every chapter, and are sure to keep younger listeners engaged even when the story takes an occasional heady turn.

This title is an ideal selection when reading to a broad audience – a K-8 audience, or even a K-12 audience.  It is silly enough to attract the youngest readers, and wise and witty enough to engage the oldest readers – just like The Princess Bride.