Eddie's Kingdom

Donald B. Johnson, Author
Donald B. Johnson, Author . Houghton $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-618-56299-2
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After four Henry books based on lessons from Thoreau, Johnson chooses a contemporary indoor setting for this tale of a diplomatic young artist. Eddie calls his apartment building "my kingdom," but he complains that its gruff residents are "always fighting with each other and yelling at me." Without announcing his intentions (peace signs on his black sneakers give him away), he takes a rolled-up sheet of paper and a pencil to each neighbor's door, with the plan of creating a group portrait. While sketching, Eddie learns each tenant's quirks, and Johnson's subtle visual cues (the bearish family pictures in one apartment, the three-pigs theme of another) hint at their beastly personalities. One man continually sets off the smoke alarm but complains of another's loud music. The music listener can't stand the crying baby next door, and Eddie himself wakes the baby by bouncing a ball upstairs. That evening, Eddie unveils his drawing, which depicts everyone as a stubborn animal. Fortunately, this icebreaker works: "the bear isn't chasing the goat, the lion isn't biting the ox, and the wolf isn't growling at me," Eddie adds. Yet despite his own complicity, Eddie doesn't show up in his caricature, and his parents never appear at all. Although this uneven story isn't as seamless as the Walden -era retellings, Johnson once again successfully seeks ways to achieve a "peaceable kingdom." Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

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