June 22, 2006

Queen Elizabeth to host own Mad Hatter’s Party

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Harry Potter and Captain Hook will be
hot on the trail of the queen's stolen handbag on Sunday at one
of the most surreal garden parties ever staged at Buckingham

To celebrate her 80th birthday, Britain's Queen Elizabeth
has invited 2,000 children to her London residence for a Mad
Hatter's Tea Party with children's characters Winnie the Pooh
and Paddington Bear joining forces with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Lucky ticket holders from a nationwide ballot will be
treated to JK Rowling reading from her latest Harry Potter book
in an "author's corner," alongside Michael Bond recounting how
Paddington Bear munched his marmalade sandwiches all the way
from Darkest Peru.

Then after tea the children will be treated to a 75-minute
show -- "The Queen's Handbag" -- drawing on the Roald Dahl
classic "The Big Friendly Giant" and starring his
granddaughter, model Sophie Dahl, playing herself.

To mark the party, a children's literacy trust is also
being set up, aimed at weaning young kids off a diet of
television and computer games.

"The importance of literature is key to the event and we
hope to use this as a catalyst to teach children the joy of
books and how important they are," a Buckingham Palace official
told Reuters.

About 12,000 free books are being donated by publishers to
an outreach program for disadvantaged children.

One of the project's prime supporters is Rowling, whose
tales of a teenage wizard have sold more than 300 million
copies. She is currently writing the seventh and final
installment of the Potter saga.

The three stars of the Harry Potter films have pre-recorded
a special scene for the Palace show.

Also joining Rowling in the "author's tent" will be Philip
Pullman whose "His Dark Materials" trilogy is shortly to be
turned into a movie franchise that could one day rival the
Potter films.

The cast list for the day draws on Britain's contribution
to the world of children's literature, and includes characters
from Mary Poppins to Toad of Toad Hall, and from The Jungle
Book to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The early evening show is being shown live on national