An artist’s visual interpretation of Sting’s song “King of Pain” was inspired by seeing his own son struggle through a difficult illness and find solace in its lyrics.
“That’s me / I am the king of pain” the boy, Malo, tells his father after hearing the song. Völker briefly recounts his son’s story in a prologue and accompanies both it and the song lyrics with minimalist, geometric forms intended to evoke the pain, worry, and sadness of a parent and child grappling with the child’s illness and painful treatment. Some comfort comes in naming the pain—“What does your pain feel like? Can you tell me?”—and the responses come in Sting’s lyrics with their own images of “a butterfly / trapped in a spider’s web” and “a skeleton / choking on a crust of bread” and, of course, “a little black spot / on the sun today.” The conclusion showing “the king of pain” looks like a joyful picture—does this mean that pain is conquered? Or that the king of pain is more powerful than the individual moments of suffering? It’s a bit hard to determine. The very personal story doesn’t quite end up supporting a visual narrative through combination of lyrics and art.
Heartfelt but so oblique it’s unlikely to connect with many readers. (Picture book. 7-10)