Happy Birthday, Felicity!

Published in 1991; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Dan Andreasen, Luann Roberts, and Keith Skeen


Felicity is excited about her upcoming tenth birthday. Her grandfather is coming to visit, so she and her mother plan a small party, basically a fancy lunch with her family and Ben. Her grandfather arrives with gifts for the children: a lamb and their late grandmother's guitar. Both are intended to help them, especially Felicity, demonstrate that they can be responsible. They name the lamb Posie, because of its preference for sitting in the flower bed. Felicity is especially excited about the guitar, as Annabelle has started music lessons with Miss Manderly. Felicity can't help but feel jealous and impatient to start learning to play music too.

Eager to show off the guitar, Felicity takes it to Miss Manderly's (for tuning) and then to Elizabeth's. Without permission--she was supposed to leave it in the parlor. When she's at the Cole house, some British soldiers come to visit Mr. Cole, and in the awkwardness of the political situation, Felicity leaves the guitar there. She quickly goes back to retrieve it, and overhears the soldiers discussing a plot to steal gunpowder from the armory later that night (the real-life Gunpowder Incident of 1775). She rushes home, and her mother catches her with the guitar, the strap torn. She's scolded harshly, and told to ask her grandfather for forgiveness. She does, and is sent to her room. But she knows she has to tell her father what she overheard. Her parents don't believe her and her grandfather, a loyalist, is even more upset. Felicity retreats to her room in tears.

Still, she knows she has to tell someone. Virginia's militia needs to be able to defend itself, and the governor is going to just take their supplies without permission or pay. She slips out of her room to tell Ben, and together they enlist the help of Isaac, a free black man who's a drummer in the militia. The three of them keep vigil at the armory, watching for signs of theft. A little after midnight, they see British soldiers secreting away the gunpowder. Isaac sounds the alarm and soon all of Williamsburg sees the duplicity of the governor. Felicity's father is in the gathering crowd, and takes Felicity and Ben home. The next morning Felicity wakes, reflecting on the events of the previous night and the fact that it's her birthday. Soon her father comes to get her. He reassures Felicity that while she still was wrong in taking the guitar, it's clear that she does try to do the right thing and is trustworthy. She's back on good terms with her parents, and her grandfather. There will be some tension among the adults after the raid, but Felicity's birthday celebration is on as planned, and she's able to enjoy her special day with her family.

Looking Back

The historical section in this book is about growing up in Felicity's time. Most families had more children than Felicity's, although about half of colonial children died before the age of six. The children that did grow up would have different experiences based on the societal class of their families. Upper class children like Felicity would do pretty much what Felicity does in the books: take lessons in being gentlemen or gentlewoman, and learn how to manage homes (boys might be apprenticed or attend college). Lower classes had to work more, and slave children, as one might expect, would be forced to work from a young age.


This book is dedicated to Ann, Bobby, Katie, and Sarah.

Felicity is happy her birthday is in the springtime because of the association with new life. Since it's spring, she suggests the serve blackberry, raspberry, and peach tarts. Those all mature in the summer to autumn. But maybe she means to use preserved fruit.

Elizabeth has blue eyes.

I'm annoyed with the Looking Back part for being so judgmental about the high child mortality rates. Yes, germ theory wasn't really grasped yet, but the parents were trying their best. And the children died of diseases like smallpox because vaccines weren't invented yet. People then didn't have the luxury of living in a time when smallpox is extinct and we can vaccinate to prevent other horrific illnesses.

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