A 1912 German classic is reprinted in English for the first time in its 101-year-old history.
The King of the Beasts declares that whosoever prepares for him the best dish will help him rule over the other animals in the future. In response to this challenge, each animal cooks or prepares the foods that please it best, thinking the lion will have similar tastes. From the donkey comes a prickly thistle salad, from the hedgehog come sausages made of snails, and so on. Only the clever wolf thinks to bring a single slaughtered lamb, a move that instantly makes him the lion’s co-ruler. Compared in her day to Kate Greenaway and Elsa Beskow, von Olfers’ simple watercolors feel more akin to Beatrix Potter thanks in part to her renderings of realistic animals performing various anthropomorphic actions. The translation does a sturdy and serviceable, if not particularly brilliant job. For example, it rhymes “the praise of the King” with “squibble-squabbling.” Once children familiarize themselves with the early-20th-century design (copious white space right at the start), they may take to the story’s plot. However, it is more likely that this will be far more beloved to collectors and historians than actual kids.
Fun as a novelty piece, but unlikely to engage too many 21st-century readers. (Picture book. 4-8)