Skip to main content

King Jack and the Dragon written by Peter Bentley, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

King Jack and the Dragon, written by Peter Bentley and magically illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, who is perfectly suited to bringing life to yet another quest story after Michael Rosen's classic We're Going on a Bear Hunt which  was published in 1989. Bentley's perfectly paced rhyme tells the story of Jack, Zack and Casper who are doing one of my all time favorite things, making a fort! There are never enough empty washing machine, refrigerator and dishwasher boxes in my life and I have been known to pull out the sheets and chairs when in a pinch. Fortunately for these boys, they have boxes, bricks, sheets and sticks and are ready to play!

Bentley writes, "Jack, Zack and Casper were making a den, a mighty great fort for King Jack and his men. A big cardboard box, an old sheet and some sticks, a couple of trash bags, a few broken bricks. A fine royal throne from a ragged old quilt, a drawbridge, a flag - and the castle was built!" "Prepare to do battle, brave knights" Jack yells to his men. 

Oxenbury illustrates the battle in page spreads reminiscent of the wild rumpus from Where the Wild Things Are, with dragons and monsters defeated. However, her children are more childlike and with sweeter dispositions and her dragons and monsters are more enchanting than frightening. Which is good because things take a turn as the day wears on. First one knight then another is carried off by giants until King Jack is on his own in the fading daylight. Oxenbury's illustrations are washed of color as King Jack's fear grows. Suspense builds until the giants come for King Jack. Oxenbury's illustrations, while subtle, make it clear who the giants really are and King Jack plays down his fear, snuggling into his parents' arms as they carry him home.

For me and in King Jack and the Dragon especially, Oxenbury's illustrations have a classic fairy tale feel while also including glimpses of contemporary life which can be seen here by the baggy jeans of the boys (and a dad) that slip to reveal underwear...

Don't miss these other fabulous books illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, including THE BEST new sibling book ever There's Going to be a Baby, written by her husband, noted children's book author and illustrator John Burningham. Be sure to seek out Eugene Trivisas' superb picture book, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. Older listeners, boys especially LOVE this story.


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…