cover image The King and the Sea

The King and the Sea

Heinz Janisch, illus. by Wolf Erlbruch. Gecko Press USA (Lerner, dist.), $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-8775-7994-3

What does it mean to have power, to be a king? Not much, finds a small, stout fellow in a robe and crown. Janisch (Why Is the Snow White?) imagines the king in a series of encounters with the sea, the rain, a dog, a trumpet, and many more in 21 fragmentary stories. Erlbruch (Duck, Death, and the Tulip) draws the king with soft, crayoned lines; his stumpy profile recalls Crockett Johnson’s cigar-chomping fairy, Barnaby. The king finds the natural world unimpressed with him. “Buzz off,” he tells a bee. “Don’t you know I’m the king?” “And I’m the queen,” the bee retorts, stinging him on the nose. The king isn’t a bully, though; he’s often open to negotiation, open-mindedness, and contemplation. He sees, as the stories draw to a close, that his place in the world has little to do with his crown, and he learns a bit about the essential nature of each of his counterparts as well. With something of the philosophical bent of The Little Prince, this is a treasure box of curious ideas for a thoughtful child. Ages 7–up. (Sept.)