The King and the Sea by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch
|The King and the Sea by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch|
|Category: Emerging Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A study in hubris, in brisk and snappy examples, but I wonder how many of the very young will even get the point?|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 48||Date: March 2015|
|Publisher: Gecko Press|
Meet the King. He's a very good King – or is he? He has to be taught by a cat that there is more to worship – the sun's rays, for one. He is so powerful yet he cannot get a trumpet to play without him being its servant, and giving it his air; he cannot persuade a cloud to stay and enjoy his kingdom; and even he is resigned to a shadow that turns his petite, glistening gold crown into a large grey shape on the floor. No, the King might think he has it all, but he hasn't.
Which kind of demands that the person watching their child read this point out that the King is just like you or I – none of us adults have it all. We cannot control dogs as we might desire, we can wish for all the fish in the sea but would only suffer as a result, and we cannot be victor forever over sleep. But I think the problem with this book is that it does need that parental nudge, among many, to make sure it's even understood at all.
It's defined as 21 extremely short stories – which is true, if you ignore the fact that the book can be read as one episodic story/lesson/fable all of itself. It's a fable in hubris – the misfortune of the person who thinks he has it all. A King is a perfect example, and this one – shiny red nose, checkerboard dressing gown and omnipresent crown, is a fun companion into the topic. But when things are so Zen, as here, so brief and gnomic, I really do have to wonder if the target audience of under-8s will grasp the whole point. The first spread here is where the King listens to the sea whoosh at him, and the lesson will be as hard to define for the young as the sea's own language.
What's more, there's almost a volte-face later on in the book, where the King conquers night, and finds happiness with a pencil and the return of the sea, in ways that seem to contradict all that went before. I was left puzzled by this, and can only see it as a further layer that makes this book intriguing for people of any age, but one that will be loved by the well-meaning, right-on (and perhaps republican!) adult that bought it a lot more so than the young person turning its sparse, collaged pages.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
If you can still bring new board books into your shared reading, Max's Wagon by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson is a great way of showing how awkward it is to have everything you wish for.
You can read more book reviews or buy The King and the Sea by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The King and the Sea by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch at Amazon.com.
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