Steinberg and Neubecker go for baroque in this tale of Louis XIV.
King Louis XIV had the biggest palace in the world, the biggest army, and the biggest parties, and he gave the biggest gifts. Unfortunately for someone who cared about size, “King Louie (which is how you say ‘Louis’ in French) was a shrimp.” So, in Steinberg’s humorous account, he compensates. His Royal Carpenter builds him a big throne. The Royal Hairdresser makes him the biggest wig ever. The Royal Shoemaker fashions ridiculously big heels for his shoes. And each effort at making the king larger goes hilariously awry. Predictably, the message of the story is that Louie’s size did not matter; the people liked him anyway because he had created a “proud and mighty nation,” where they were happy and safe. With no sense of real history, this silly, enjoyable story is enlivened with Neubecker’s bright palette and lively caricatures, the highlight being the full-bleed illustration of Louie’s wig, too big for the page to contain, later seen drooping in the rain. The endpapers, showing Louie’s colorful and high-heeled shoes, are a fitting visual footnote. Young readers will understand Louie’s desire to be bigger, to impress people with his importance. Unusually, brown-skinned people are among supporting characters pictured, although it is unclear whether they are courtiers, servants, or slaves.
Young readers will kick up their heels at such frivolity. (biographical facts) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)