The Tiger Who Would Be King by James Thurber and JooHee Yoon
Published by Enchanted Lion Books
This is a story about war. The text is from the original 1920's ground breaking fable by James Thurber highlighting the futility of war and rendered here as a picture book alongside JooHee Yoon's bold illustrations.
Tiger wakes up one day and arbitrarily decides to challenge Lion to the title of King of the Beasts. All of the animals are engaged in the epic battle and end up dead. All except Tiger - leading to the moral "You can't very well be king of beasts if there aren't any." Despite darkly humorous and subversive moments eg Mrs Tiger at the start of the story, this is not a light-hearted story.
Hoon's animal illustrations have a primitive brutality resembling war-mask artefacts in a museum. The pages are coloured in a printmaking style - bold green and red layered over thick white paper, giving the book an angry feel. A panoramic open- out spread in the middle of the book depicts a chaotic battlefield of all the animals at war.
This is a purposefully disturbing and unsettling book, summed up for me in the haunting and chilling words towards the end:
'When the moon rose, fevered and gibbous, it shone upon a jungle in which nothing stirred except a macaw and a cockatoo, screaming in horror.'
In a society that tends to white wash stories for children this book stands in stark contrast. Although having an important message, parents will need to use their own sensibilities to determine the appropriateness for their own child. For some children, this book will assist their understanding of the world, for others it may bring a sense of hopelessness.
With dark themes and brutal images I would suggest this is a book for older readers (8 and up) and would fit very well in the classroom for teaching about themes of war, even into high school.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: James Thurber
Illustrator: JooHee Yoon
Title: The Daring Prince Dashing
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books
Published: September 2015