cover image The King's Equal

The King's Equal

Katherine Paterson. HarperCollins Publishers, $18.89 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-06-022497-4

Endowing her picture book cum chapter book with both humor and mystery, Paterson ( Lyddie ) inventively rejuvenates one of folklore's familiar themes--the triumph of common sense and earthy sensibility. A selfish, conceited prince is tormented by the dying words of his wise father, the benevolent king: ``You will not wear my crown until the day you marry a woman who is your equal in beauty, intelligence and wealth.'' Raphael's vanity prevents him from finding such a bride until an unknown maiden appears at the palace. Sent by a mysterious talking wolf, Rosamund dazzles Raphael with her beauty, her intelligence (she is the first to recognizes his loneliness) and her wealth (``There is nothing I desire that I do not already possess''). However, she refuses his proposal of marriage, pointing out that, by his own admission, she is more than equal to him; his task is to earn her love. Illuminating the six chapters are Vagin's elegantly detailed paintings, each featuring a smaller bordered scene laid atop a full-page illustration: the opulent scarlet and golds of the royal interiors are strikingly juxtaposed with the smoky blues and greens of the lush countryside; pewter-toned borders surround the text itself. The richness of both word and image renders an entertaining and enchanting story. Ages 7-10. (Sept.)