cover image Rulers of the Playground

Rulers of the Playground

Joseph Kuefler. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-242432-7

Kuefler (Beyond the Pond) returns with a smart, funny examination of power and control, set in the milieu of slides and swing sets. One day at the playground, a boy named Jonah appoints himself “king of this land.” He classmates quickly acquiesce, but asserting rule isn’t as easy as keeping it: a girl named Lennox asserts herself queen and claims the swings as her territory, and their classmates get caught in the ensuing power struggle. The careful detailing and muted palette of Kuefler’s previous book are just as appealing in this story, and his use of royal trappings bring understated humor to the conflict—Jonah and Lennox both wear crowns and other regalia, and small flags mark out their holdings on the seesaw and climbing dome as they attempt to out-conquer each other. Meanwhile, their classmates’ growing displeasure can be read loud and clear on their faces, portending not a revolution but a lack of subjects as they take their play elsewhere. It’s a sly reminder that being in charge isn’t always as fun as it looks. Ages 4–8. Agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. (Apr.)