cover image The Last King of Angkor Wat

The Last King of Angkor Wat

Graeme Base. Abrams, $17.95 (36p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1354-5

In Base’s (Little Elephants) fable, four boastful animals discover they are not as virtuous as they thought they were. The Angkor Wat setting, luxuriously drafted and colored, supplies a bower of evocative scenes—sunlight sifting through jungle trees, the massive blocks of the temple ruins, and an elephant king who manifests before the four animals as they bicker about who would make the finest ruler. The elephant sets them a challenge: Tiger, Gecko, Water Buffalo, and Gibbon must all run to a distant temple. Each meets a threatening snake on the way, and each is further delayed by an additional obstacle; Tiger, for example, is asked to help a wounded bird. When the four arrive at their destination, the elephant judges them all. “One among you is clearly the mightiest,” he starts. “However, he ignored a call for help along the way. He lacks compassion.” The other animals’ performances are similarly weighed; none is worthy to reign. Whether readers learn to turn the same hard gaze upon themselves, Base’s exceptional illustrative powers will absorb their attention. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)