Thursday 20 August 2020
King of the Swamp by Catherine Emmett and Ben Mantle
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Stop Press! The arrival of this picture book from debut author, Catherine Emmett, actually made my five year old son pause his thirty minutes of TV time with the words;
"Can you read it to me now?"
I nearly fainted with joy and surprise. As much as we love sharing books, this is a very rare occurrence. But who can blame him for saying it? The stunning front cover, from one our favourite illustrators, Ben Mantle is hard to resist with its mute purples and greens and the quirky main character in all his glory.
McDarkly lives in a swamp and has big plans for making it a truly beautiful home. But when the King appears with plans to turn it into a roller skate park, horrified McDarkly is given only ten days to change his mind. McDarkly gets to work but all his hard work is thwarted by hungry munchers. What on earth will McDarkly do now?
This is a fun rhyming picture book with a great main character and a strong ecological message. The moody swamp offers a unique setting for a picture book and is the perfect dwelling for McDarkly - so much so that we are immediately on his side when the swamp is threatened. The pictures of the plants and bugs who thrive in the muddy waters are a delight all the way through and the rhyme and rhythm allows the plot to 'skate' along nicely.
The theme of urban development is very relevant to today's world and I can see this text being used in schools to spark discussion and debate. As an ex-primary teacher who has taught this subject, it is a story that I would have jumped on for this and many more reasons; art, biology... the list goes on. We loved the message of seeing beauty in the dingiest of places and also that McDarkly works hard to solve his problems. It's a clever plot twist when one of his biggest problems becomes his solution and to round it all off it ends by championing teamwork!
We highly recommend reading this and we bet you'll love McDarkly so much you'll want to see him again. Any chance of a sequel, an early reader, a chapter book...? We'll watch this space!
King of the Swamp published TODAY - 20th August 2020!
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