The Prince and the Pauper is a novel by American author Mark Twain. The novel represents Twain's first attempt at historical fiction. Set in 1547, it tells the story of two young boys who are identical in appearance: Tom Canty, a pauper who lives with his abusive father in Offal Court off Pudding Lane in London, and Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII.
Made less satirical than Mark Twain's classic and simplified for younger readers, this retelling is still a lively romp. A beggar and a prince look so alike that they change places but then cannot immediately switch back. Mayer's (The Unicorn and the Lake) adaptation is serviceable if not sparkling; she retains all the key scenes of the story but flattens Twain's archaisms. While some of the original's sophisticated humor gets lost in the translation, much of it remains. For example, when Edward, the prince, tries telling pauper Tom's parents that he is really the Prince of Wales, Tom's mother responds, "Oh, poor Tom, it's all those books you read that's done this to you." And in court, when Tom is given a finger bowl, he drinks from it, announcing, "This is a very flavorless soup." Lippincott (Bruce Coville's Magic Shop series) vibrantly renders the ragged features of the paupers, and his tableaux are full of life. His palace scenes are ornate, light-filled watercolors of splendor in which the boys' homely, toothy faces seem like the only real and honest things. For readers not yet ready for Twain, this version, like its model, will make them think about their places in the world. Ages 7-up.