THE CONQUERORS

David McKee, Author . Handprint $16.95 (25p) ISBN 978-1-59354-078-4

In this provocative parable of domination, illustrated in an unaggressive ink line and mild colors, a General leads his army against less powerful countries. " 'It's for their own good,' he said. 'So they can be like us.' " Blonde women and girls, and red-capped men and boys, wave farewell to the red-and-blue uniformed conquerors as they parade to battle. (The General dresses like Napoleon and the soldiers wear the kepis of gendarmes .) At last, just one tiny country remains, and its people "offered no resistance. Instead, [they] greeted the soldiers as if they were welcome guests." Peasants—including women wearing Muslim headscarves and robes—joke, sing and eat with the invaders. The soldiers join in and help them with their chores. Later, civilians in the General's country begin trying new recipes and playing borrowed games. At night, to his son, the General sings "the only songs he could remember. The songs of the little country... he had conquered." British author-illustrator McKee (the Elmer series) suggests that violent "conquerors" might be combatted in unconventional ways, and his message of nonviolent resistance echoes Gandhi's. Yet the book raises troubling questions: Were those who resisted by force wiped out, their traditions erased? Is smiling, cooperative assimilation the only resort for unarmed dissenters in an Empire? McKee's galvanizing tale makes a good companion to Marsden and Tan's The Rabbits , a powerful statement from the perspective of the colonized. Ages 4-8. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 11/01/2004
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