cover image The New King

The New King

Doreen Rappaport. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1460-1

A thoughtful folktale from Madagascar and spare, painterly watercolors affectingly cohere in this compassionate book about a boy's encounter with death. When his father the king is killed on a hunt, the crown prince-the ``new king''-commands assorted court potentates to revive him. When they are unable to help, the vexed child consults the Wise Woman, who teaches him about death and immortality with a parable about ``the first human couple,'' who were given a choice between renewal (``dying like the moon'') or enabling a new generation (``dying like the banana tree''). Rappaport's (The Journey of Meng) seemingly straightforward narrative is infused with strong emotional currents. (She notes, in fact, that the prince's passage through grief is based upon the writings of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross). Lewis's (Fire on the Mountain) unadorned illustrations, featuring strong, emotive faces and striking native garb, focus the attention squarely on the characters. Ages 5-up. (May)