The Saddest King

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Chris Wormell
Jonathan Cape
Jan 2007
The prolific and diverse author-illustrator Chris Wormell adopts the feel and form of the fairytale in his latest picture book, �The Saddest King�. Readers are introduced to a country whose populace are always happy, who smile through sun shine, rain and snowfall alike, who are happy with flowers whether alive or dead are equally pleased with gifts whether they be boxes of chocolates or bad apples. Happiness is compulsory, decreed by the King himself.

The decree, however, is broken one day by a small boy who breaks the law by crying. The boy�s isolation through such actions and the strength of his feelings are emphasised through his being, small-in-scale, centred on a blank white page. Nobody is able to cheer him whether with dance, song or food.

Eventually the King�s Guards catch up with him and remove him to the dungeons where it is prophesised he will be tied up in the dungeons and tickled with feathers. Feather in hand, the King greets the boy with the widest smile he has ever seen and asks the reason for his melancholia. The boy explains how his dog has died, upon which it transpires the king is wearing a mask that hides the saddest, most tear drenched face the boy has ever seen.

The King�s own dog died and to cover his grief he made the decree that happiness should be compulsory. Together the King and the boy are able to share their sorrow and their memories of the two dogs. The King then tears up the special order that makes happiness compulsory and everyone has a good cry, the first they have had in many years.

This is an important book that legitimises and validates all feelings. It�s strength in its evasion of the happy ending, everyone cries, is that � at last � the populace are able to express the truth of their emotions. This is to be greatly applauded at a time when as many as one in thirty-three children and one in eight adolescents suffer depression� perhaps, for many, childhood does not represent the �best years of life� as is often purported and that care needs to be given both to listening and to letting tell if the adage is not to shackle and do injustice...

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on January 21, 2007 4:05 PM.

P is for Pakistan was the previous entry in this blog.

Beware! Killer Tomatoes is the next entry in this blog.

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