cover image King Hugo's Huge Ego

King Hugo's Huge Ego

Chris Van Dusen. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5004-9

"Long ago, when people spoke/ with words like %E2%80%98thou' and %E2%80%98thee,' " a Napoleonic figure (in attitude and physical stature) named King Hugo ruled supreme. While his subjects think he's a joke, they have no choice but abjection: they bow low when he passes by and pretend to listen his "Speech of Adoration," a weekly hours-long "boring buzz/ of how mighty and magnificent/ King Hugo thought he was." Comeuppance takes the form of a comely, feisty peasant maid named Tessa, who, unbeknownst to the king, is also a sorceress. "Let's see if all your arrogance/ can fit inside your head," she says, and sure enough, "his head kept bloating,/ bulging bigger every day" with each narcissistic act, until he looks like a bobble head doll on steroids. A life lesson and true love tie up the loose ends, but not before readers are treated to a terrific m%C3%A9lange of satire, slapstick, and caricature, all served up with expert comic timing. Van Dusen (The Circus Ship) may be puncturing the myth of infallible monarchy, but readers will have no trouble pledging obeisance to his comic majesty. Ages 3%E2%80%936. (Aug.)