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KING & KING by Linda de Haan Kirkus Star


by Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland

Age Range: 5 - 7

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-58246-061-2
Publisher: Tricycle

Move over, Princess Smartypants: this Dutch import arrives to take top honors in the fairytale-fracturing department. When the pushy queen of a small, unnamed country decides it’s high time for her son, the prince, to settle down and marry a princess so she can retire, he exhibits some reluctance—“I’ve never cared much for princesses”—but she eventually wears him down. There follows a seemingly endless parade of eligible princesses, but the prince is unmoved until Princess Madeleine shows up with her brother, Prince Lee, and, “It was love at first sight. / ‘What a wonderful prince!’ ” The prince and Prince Lee are duly wed, “And everyone lives happily ever after.” The exuberant mixed-media illustrations have a distinctly European flair, employing vivid colors in bold combinations, and the line-and-color human figures have a childlike, almost primitive look. The prince himself looks rather like Mr. Gumpy with a crown; Prince Lee is a dashing chap with a goatee and an earring. Taken all together, the illustrations work wonderfully with the text to make its statement with no apologies whatsoever. After the wedding (at which the queen sheds a sentimental “tear or two”), the newlyweds gaze at each other over their monumental purple-and-pink cake, which, of course, is topped with two tiny princes. On the final, wordless page, the happy couple smooch, the actual meeting of lips chastely fig-leafed by a bright red heart. Indeed a book whose time has come, this is no pusillanimous bibliotherapy; it is, rather, a joyful celebration that at the same time firmly challenges the assumptions established and perpetuated by the entire canon of children’s picture books. Hurrah to newcomers de Haan and Nijland and to the publisher for bringing them to an American audience. (Picture book. 5-7)