Imaginatively Adventurous: A Review of King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
One of my favorite books to read aloud to my kids, King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, takes you right into the imagination of young Jack and his friends. It reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sandek by delving into a child's imagination on a search for 'monsters' as well as the style of art used in the story. For anyone who loved Where the Wild Things Are this is a must have title for your bookshelf. When I was a little boy I was always exploring my yard looking for dinosaurs or other beasts; armed with toy weapons and equipment for the hunt. Most parents (especially dads) will connect with the fun tale and enjoy reading it while inspiring your own kids imaginations.
Brock: I reached out to author Peter Bently about his story King Jack and the Dragon and asked a few question. I hope you'll enjoy the Q&A. Peter, how did you come up with the idea for the King Jack and the Dragon?
Peter: It began with my son Theo (alias King Jack) building a den in our back garden one summer night when he was about seven. He planned to camp out all night, but once it got truly dark he was soon spooked
by all the unknown noises of the night – rustling branches, roosting birds, scuttling creatures and so on – and staying the night without mum and dad didn't seem such a good plan. But we commended him for
being brave enough to try!
Brock: Our kids often are the best inspiration for our writing. In fact I've got a book under review with a couple of publishers inspired by my oldest daughter. Did you pretend to fight monsters and dragons when you were a little boy?
Peter: I do remember imagining there were monsters under my bed and how I would scare them off if they woke up!
Brock: I doubt many children get through childhood without facing an imaginary monster or two, whether under their bed, in their closet, or as they imagine being a knight or princess. Can you tell us something about King Jack not in the story?
Peter: He likes to be the king but he is also fair to his playmates and happy to let his baby brother Caspar join in too. Jack likes to play at pirates too…you can read all about that when "Captain Jack and the Pirates" comes out later this year.
Brock: We will certainly look forward to that release. What is your favorite part of the story and why?
Peter: I like the part where he imagines the dragons and monsters he is fighting. It's partly to do with Helen Oxenbury's pictures, which portray the creatures so perfectly – not too scary. She told me the monsters were a tribute to the late Maurice Sendak.
Brock: On that last point, prior to doing the interview, that (the likeness to Maurice Sendak's Wild Things) is exactly what I wrote into my review. Good to know I wasn't off base. Thanks again Peter for answering these questions and giving us some insight into this great children's book. One I think all parents should read to their kids.
From the Publisher:
A lively playtime adventure that becomes a warm and cozy bedtime book—perfect for every little knight-in-training. From the illustrator of the award-winning We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Night is falling and playtime is nearly over. But brave King Jack and his faithful knights Zak and Caspar are still protecting their castle fort from fierce dragons and terrible beasts. This captivating, joyful make-believe adventure is the perfect bedtime story for brave children everywhere. Fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Dinosaur Roar will especially enjoy this imaginative tale.An ALA Notable Book Bank Street Book Committee Best Children’s Books of the Year Kate Greenaway Award
“Sure to be read aloud again and again, this testament to imaginative play exudes warmth.”--Kirkus Reviews
Praise for King Jack and the Dragon:
“At once contemporary and classic.” — The New York Times
“Though the characters are wholly modern, there is a timelessness to the cycle of excitement, apprehension and parental comfort that should give this lovely book a long stay on the nursery shelf.” — The Wall Street Journal*
“It’s an enchanting tribute to both full-throttle pretend play and the reassurance of a parent’s embrace.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review*
“A tale of make-believe that children will delight in hearing again and again.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“The rhyming verse, large trim size, and detailed illustrations…make this a suitable story for group sharing, while the sweet, intimate tone will make it a family favorite.” — Booklist
“From this simple premise of imaginative play, Bently and Oxenbury create a classically sweet picture book.” — Horn Book
“This one is sure to become a full-on family favorite at bedtime.” — The Washington Post
“Altogether, ‘King Jack’ is just about perfect.” — The Sacramento Bee