The King and the Sea
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The King and the Sea

Heinz Janisch, Wolf Erlbruch, Sally-Ann Spencer

These stunningly illustrated, ultra-short stories are seemingly simple but ultimately profound tales. ‘Buzz off,’ said the king, shooing the bee from his flower. ‘Don’t you know I’m the king?’ ‘And I’m the queen,’ said the bee, stinging the king’s nose.

In each story, the king has an encounter which he tries to rule over. But of course the rain doesn’t stop just because a king orders it, and tired eyelids can be much stronger than a king’s will. The king sees that his power has limits; the world is diverse and much of it operates under its own rules.


On one level The King and the Sea is a collection of pithy short stories about a little king who sets out to explore ‘his’ kingdom. His endeavours meet with varying degrees of success. The little king has much to learn and nature has much to teach him; some lessons are droll, funny and ironic but all are profound.

On a deeper level this picture book is composed of a series of parables, illustrating the illusion of control, the folly of arrogance and the power of humility.

I loved this gorgeous little picture book with its deceptively simple illustrations which cleverly focus the reader’s mind on the richness in the text. Younger readers will love this book and parents will relish the opportunity for philosophical discussion with young minds.

Highly recommended for ages 4 and up and a perfect introduction for junior philosophers!

Athina Clarke is a Children’s & YA Book Specialist at Readings Malvern.

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