by columnist Madeline Karp

Last April, in a fit of ridiculousness, I declared myself Her Royal Highness, Madeline, Ice Princess of Pittsburgh and All Western Pennsylvania. My friends rolled their eyes, sighed, and obliged until the Pittsburgh Penguins were knocked out of Stanley Cup contention in the first round, thereby ending my reign supreme.

This year I did no such thing, but had I chosen to reclaim my Ice Princess title, the circumstances would have been far less ridiculous. You see, I was slated to attend the Please Touch Museum’s 5th annual Storybook Ball, a fundraiser where royal titles – along with ball gowns, knights in armor and a healthy imagination – are not only welcomed, they’re encouraged.

No, really. Some families got *way* into it.

No, really. Some families got *way* into it.

For the past twenty-eight years, the Please Touch Museum has hosted an annual book awards ceremony to honor modern and prolific children’s authors like David Ezra Stein (author of my beloved Interrupting Chicken), Mo Willems (Listen to My Trumpet, Book 17 in the Elephant and Piggie series), and Ame Dyckman (Boy + Bot).

But a ceremony of such importance is nothing without a celebration, and as any child will tell you, story books plus big celebrations can only equal one thing: a Royal Ball. In 2009, the museum decided to host an accompanying fundraiser; thus the Annual Storybook Ball was born. Museum members are invited to come to the museum dressed as their favorite storybook characters for an evening of age-appropriate play, character meet and greets, and of course, author-led story times, all in the name of celebrating great children’s stories and literacy skills.

Adorably, this year’s Ball played out like a prom for pre-schoolers – complete with knights and superheroes, princesses and fairies. And lest you think the kids were the only ones involved, I saw more than one grown set of Prince Charming and Evil Queen chaperones.


For the less whimsical in the crowd, Storybook Ball has done more than provide Please Touch Museum members with a night of escapist fantasy that ends happily ever after (provided there are no temper tantrums). As a fundraising event, the Ball has proven itself to be an increasing success and a model for future fundraisers. Some stats, for you bottom-liners out there:

  • Between 2012 and 2013, Storybook Ball has raised over $200,000 for the museum.
  • 1,400 people attended Storybook Ball in 2013.
  • Three authors/illustrators honored in the 2013 Book Awards ceremony attended the Ball.
  • Storybook Ball was listed as one of the Top Ten Things To Do in Philadelphia for the weekend of 4/20/2013 on’s weekly event calendar.

In short, this fundraiser knows its audience, and it knows its audience is growing. It’s more than your average dinner/silent auction/raffle ticket fundraiser, it’s more fun than your average black tie museum affair and it’s more than a meet-and-greet with your favorite authors at the bookstore. Storybook Ball is all of these things and more.

To quote a famous book loving princess – and Ball attendee! – this event had “far off places, magic spells, daring swordfights, [and] a prince in disguise” among other enchanting features. Props if you can “Name That Princess.” More props if you decided reading was cool as a kid because she liked to read, too.

I’m a hard sell on fundraisers, but I am absolutely looking forward to attending next year’s Ball. Here’s hoping Her Royal Highness the Ice Princess will dust off her skates to make an appearance.

No Ball is complete without a carriage. Members were offered rides around the building in this horse-drawn pumpkin, complete with Footman and commemorative photo.

No Ball is complete without a carriage. Members were offered rides around the building in this horse-drawn pumpkin, complete with Footman and commemorative photo.

 All photos courtesy of the Please Touch Museum