King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Open this book and you are immersed in a wonderful world of make-believe that you will not want to leave. There is a timelessness to not only the story here, but the way it is told.
Jack, Zack and Caspar were making a fort for King Jack out of a large box, a sheet, a blanket, some sticks, broken bricks, some trash bags, and other odds and ends. Then they spent the entire day fighting dragons and beasts until they returned back to their fort for a celebratory feast. Unfortunately, after that a giant came and took Sir Zack home. Then another giant came and took Caspar off to bed. That left King Jack alone on his throne in his fort. As darkness fell, he tried to not feel frightened of the noises of wind and the scurrying of animals. He wasn’t really truly scared until he heard the four footed beast approaching in the dark.
Beautifully told by Bently, this book reads aloud with zest and style. The story moves from the building of the fort to the playing of pretend through to the end of the day when reality comes calling for each of the children. It is a story that speaks to the power of imagination, the ability of children to create worlds that they fall into, and the love of play. The entire text captures that sense of play, merrily creating tension towards the end of the book without any real fear.
Oxenbury’s illustrations help to strengthen the timelessness of the story. The sweetness of her illustrations is tempered by the ferocity of the dragons and beasts she depicts. Yet there is no real danger here, and her illustrations help underline that to the youngest of readers.
Have large boxes and plenty of “swords” ready after you share this book. It is sure to create some new knights out of any children who listen to it. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.