The Conquerors by David McKee
|The Conquerors by David McKee|
|Genre: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath|
|Summary: A fantastic tale of how violence and aggression can be conquered with warm-heartedness and kindness. Whereas pacifism and appeasement might be naive in practice, they're perfectly pitched for a picture book. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 32||Date: July 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
The General rules the country, with his strong army and large cannon. The army stomps from country to country, conquering other people, until they've conquered all the countries except one. Rather than fighting back, this tiny little country treats the army as friends, welcoming them into their homes, with warmth and kindness.
I adored The Conquerors. Its messages of acceptance, friendliness and setting a good example are perfectly handled. It raises issues of pacifism and appeasement, without getting into the complexities of when such policies don't work. However, it always feels pitched at its young audience, rather than one-sided and lacking in depth. Any parents with even the tiniest hint of a right-on liberal hippy bent will absolutely love The Conquerors.
It's very much a message book, but that isn't its only strength. The pacing is spot on, allowing the plot to shine. The vocabulary will stretch and develop younger readers, but they'll always understand what's going on and won't feel lost. They may not know the phrase The spoils of war, but when the General exclaims this, they'll understand what it means, and also the more sophisticated point that the General's country hasn't taken these things from the little country. The little country has conquered the aggressor, simply by setting a kind example.
David McKee's illustrations are excellent, as always. This, after all, is the man who gave us Mr Benn and Elmer. The pictures are deceptively simple, yet full of character and expression. Each page perfectly illustrates the unfolding plot and has plenty for inquisitive young eyes to pore over. Some parents might be concerned about how war would be depicted in a picture book. There's just one page of war in The Conquerors and the tone is spot on: it's not remotely gruesome or scary, but it's not whitewashed over as some people are dead. It will spark conversation between children and parents, as will the whole book.
The Conquerors should have a place on every child's bookshelf. It's a great story in its own right, but its message means it has valuable lessons woven deep into it. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
For another picture book about the horrors of war, check out A Child's Garden: A Story Of Hope by Michael Foreman. You can also take a look at our Top Ten Children's Books About Weighty Subjects.
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