cover image The Potato King

The Potato King

Christoph Niemann. Owlkids (PGW, dist.), $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-77147-139-8

King Frederick of Prussia’s legendary attempts to urge his subjects to eat potatoes might be apocryphal, but Niemann’s (That’s How!) smart retelling, adapted from a 2012 installment of his visual column in the New York Times, offers a bushel of laughs. What better medium could be imagined for the tale than potato prints? “Hear, hear,” a red potato-printed King Fritz announces to his subjects, printed in blue. “I give you the potato. It costs little to grow and is healthy to boot!” He stands on a potato to make his proclamation—a photograph of a potato, that is, startlingly lifelike and three-dimensional when set against the clean, white page. His subjects are unimpressed. One chucks a potato at him, its trajectory traced in potato-printed dashes. Then the king has an idea. He forbids access to his potato field, guarding it with dozens of soldiers. Sure enough, thieves break in (“If a vegetable has to be so closely guarded, there must be something special about it”), and everyone is soon growing and eating potatoes. The retelling sparkles, and a medium that might have hampered Niemann instead spurs his creativity. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)