cover image The Paper Kingdom

The Paper Kingdom

Helena Ku Rhee, illus. by Pascal Campion. Random House, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-525-64461-3

“Mama and Papa were night janitors,” writes Rhee (The Turtle Ship), who bases this story on her own experiences growing up. “When they got ready for work, Daniel got ready for sleep” across the cozy room from where his mother is cooking. But tonight, the person who usually watches Daniel can’t come, and Daniel’s parents have asked the upstairs neighbors for “too many favors.” The child must leave his bed and accompany them. The security guard looks the other way, and Daniel’s parents get to work cleaning a corporate office, telling their son it’s “The Paper Kingdom” ruled by two monarchs and inhabited by dragons. Dad makes jokes and Mama says of the dragons, “They don’t mean to be naughty,” while gentle digital images by Campion (Good Morning, City) depict a bright, fluorescent-lit space. But the kingdom is a mess: the board room is littered with papers, the kitchen is a “disaster,” and the work is obviously grueling. “It made Daniel feel hurt inside” to watch his parents labor in the middle of the night, and he rails about the unfairness of their having to clean up after others. Rhee ends on an upbeat note (maybe one day Daniel will be king, and “tell the dragons to be nice and neat”), and her story offers both a meaningful portrayal of one working-class experience and an image of a loving, hardworking family. Age 3–7. [em]Author’s agent: Bill Contardi, Brandt & Hochman Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Assoc. (Feb.) [/em]