The King of Space by Jonny Duddle is an epic picture book. As a parent and longtime children's bookseller, I am deeply aware that the contents of a picture book might not always seem to match the cost of a picture book. With Jonny Duddle, and especially his newest book, I guarantee you get your money's worth - and extra value as there is a gatefold (four page) spread and the dust jacket boasts a poster on the reverse. I don't know much about Duddle's career up to this point other than the fact that his first two picture books feature pirates, he spent a year working on a square-rigger sailing ship and was a concept artist for Aardman Animation's feature film The Pirates! Band of Misfits. When you read his books, this will all make sense, especially The King of Space, which has a cinematic scope in terms of illustrations and a story that has a lot going on.
The story actually begins before the first page, with the endpapers at the start of the book showing the desk of Rex, the future King of Space. There is a ray gun, a calculator, a mug of milk, plans for a Warbot, a love letter to Princess Kooki inviting her to be Rex's princess and a book titled, "Rex's Plan for Intergalactic Conquest." The endpapers at the end of the book show the same desk with a few revisions that are very funny once you have read the book. Rex lives on a small moon in the Gamma Quadrant with his parents on their moog (space cow) farm where he thinks up some pretty big plans when he is not shoveling the moog dung, reeling in the moogs and zapping the moog rustlers. Having to attend Mini Galactic Citizen School really cramps Rex's style. However, a homework assignment from Miss Brain asking for each student to build a robot that can do something helpful has some unfortunate consequences for Rex, including a parent-teacher conference and some recess-time punishment. Rex's Warbot is not the hit he thought it would be.
But that doesn't stop Rex or even slow him down. Rex tricks his friend Blip, who is very good at making machines, into helping him and he builds some weapons that use the by-products of the moogs as ammunition.
Things go pretty well for Rex and his diabolical creations. And then they don't. I don't want to give away the whole story here, but I hope I have given you enough of a taste of the story and the phenomenal illustrations in The King of Space to convince you that this book is well worth the money and would make a fantastic gift for any little listeners in your life.
Duddle's other books are:
The Pirate-Cruncher is a rhyming tale that reads like a shanty and is both funny and surprising.
The Pirates Next Door is another picture book that is worth every penny and more and was a story time favorite of mine. The town of Dull-on-the-Sea is perfectly named until Jim and his family move in next door to Matilda.
Source: Review Copy