Remember the story of the vain emperor and the cunning tailors? It wasn’t quite like that....
Ming Da, upon becoming ruler of China at the age of 9, discovers that his ministers are stealing the country’s food and riches. Without resources to serve his people and run his kingdom, how can the boy emperor outwit his treacherous ministers and avoid rebellion? Enlisting the help of his loyal tailors, he just might be able to recover some of the stolen riches and shame his trio of terrible ministers. A cheeky narrator who asserts that this is the “real story” of the emperor’s new clothes is given context in Compestine’s rich author’s note. It describes how this particular telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale emerged from the oppressive, literature-scarce world of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Roberts’ watercolor, pen, and ink illustrations—which will be familiar to readers of Andrea Beaty’s picture books Ada Twist, Scientist (2016) and Rosie Revere, Engineer (2013)—add humor and nuance. They render the story’s villains with just the right balance of gravitas and hilarity, and a sumptuous double-page spread perfectly captures the caper’s climax. Just one quibble: a small mouse and cricket appear inconsistently on pages throughout the book, enticing but then thwarting would-be seekers.
A clever retelling buttressed by a fascinating backstory and vivid art. (activity instructions) (Picture book. 5-10)