Cover image for The lady with the ship on her head
The lady with the ship on her head
Lattimore, Deborah Nourse.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, [1990]

Madame Pompenstance competes for the Best Headdress Award at the annual Fancy Dress Ball, unaware that a small ship has sailed onto her head and become her headdress.
Reading Level:
AD 780 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.6 0.5 9497.

Reading Counts RC K-2 4.8 2 Quiz: 17201 Guided reading level: P.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Madame Pompenstance competes for the Best Headdress Award at the annual Fancy Dress Ball, unaware that a small ship has sailed onto her head and become her headdress.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4-7. Eighteenth-century France may be an unusual setting for a picture book, but here the extravagance of the upper class and the opulence of their surroundings serve to make this tale all the more ridiculous. Determined to win the year's Best Headdress Medal at the fancy dress ball, Madame Pompenstance wanders along the seashore seeking inspiration. Leaning down to collect shells, she takes no notice when a miniature three-masted sailing vessel, complete with tiny crew, lands in her coiffured hair. She lurches, headache intensifying, from one social function to another, ending the day at the seashore, where her erstwhile--and unknowing--visitors set sail once more. Children will enjoy the comedy of the ridiculous names and situations as well as the inevitability of the plot. Watercolor illustrations, reflecting the overdecoration of the period, include such a profusion of overlapping line, pattern, and border that the eye is, at times, bewildered. Best seen at a distance, the pictures occasionally lose dramatic focus in the overall abundance of detail, but children will respond to the humor. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lattimore's fanciful story pokes fun at the ridiculous extravagances reached by women's coiffures in 18th-century France. Madame Pompenstance, the book's somewhat rattle-brained heroine, is a perfect example of the silliness of the times. Preparing for the annual Fancy Dress Ball, this fatuous fashion plate is seeking a suitably excessive hairstyle that will win her the prestigious Medal for Best Headdress. When Madame strolls down to the beach for inspiration, a small triple-masted sailing ship docks right on top of her head. Thinking the sun is beating rather strongly, she doesn't realize what has happened. Her day goes from bad to worse--the ``headache'' becoming increasingly painful--but that night at the ball, Madame is at last awarded the coveted prize, never discovering the reason. Lattimore has crafted exquisite, historically accurate illustrations that will provide as much mirth as her tongue-in-cheek tale. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4 --Hoping to win the Medal of Honor for Best Headdress at a fancy ball, Madame Pompenstance will do anything for a new idea. While strolling on the beach, she bends down to find a few seashells to put in her hair. Unbeknownst to her, at that moment a very small triple-masted sailing ship rows upon her head and balances upon her elaborate hairstyle. During the day, while Madame Pompenstance plays croquet, has tea, plays cards, and poses for her portrait, she wonders why her head aches so much. The sailors aboard the ship drop anchor and have a wonderful time eating sweets at the tea and drinking rum punch during the Ball. At the Ball that evening, Madame Pompenstance wins hands down for her ingenious headgear, but resolves to never again use seashells in her hair. This amusing story captures the feel of 18th-century French aristocracy while also serving as a delightfully silly story. Lattimore's lavish ink-wash illustrations perfectly reflect the elaborate styles of the time. Executed in a fairly realistic manner, the characters are reminiscent of Hogarth with their droll, almost grotesque faces. The clothing of Madame Pompenstance and her friends is so finely detailed as to resemble actual costume renderings. All in all, a fanciful bonbon of a story that should have older picture-book audiences giggling at the foolishness of Madame Pompenstance. --Denise Anton Wright, Library Book Selection Service, Inc., Bloomington, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.