cover image The King Who Wouldn’t Sleep

The King Who Wouldn’t Sleep

Debbie Singleton, illus. by Holly Swain. Andersen Press USA (Lerner, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7613-8997-2

It’s a treat to come across an original fairy tale that generates surprise not by irony or irreverence, but through sheer narrative ingenuity. Debut author Singleton does just that—her clever story wouldn’t be out of place in a Grimm’s collection. The eponymous king is an insomniac by choice: he “loved his only daughter so much that he had resolved to watch over her every day and every night, until he could find her the perfect prince.” Determined to get some face-time alone with the princess, suitors try to lull or even drug the king to sleep. But in the classic tradition, it takes a humble but quick-thinking young farmer to set in motion an elaborate con that results in the king having to count sheep. “And they slept peacefully ever after.” Swain’s (The Perfect Baby) innocuous cartooning puts a bit of a damper on Singleton’s brisk prose and inventiveness. While there’s plenty of variety in the compositions, the characterizations are flat: the princess is a cipher, and the farmer exudes only the barest hint of slyness. Ages 4–9. (Apr.)