Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling
As softly spoken as this fable is, its message is powerful, its theme highly pertinent.
The story begins with a wordless spread rendered in soft silvery graphite to which has been added very gentle digital colour.
Turning the page reveals a just woken hungry mouse discovering not food but a tiny crown in the grass.
The mouse dons the crown; it fits perfectly and very soon a bear comes along. “Are you a king?” he asks. The mouse considers briefly before replying in the affirmative. “Hail to the king!” comes the bear’s response.
Before long a crow and a tortoise have come along and they all set about collecting food for the ‘king’.
Up comes a fox suggesting they create a dramatic offering to alleviate the mouse’s boredom and the mouse voices his approval.
In the meantime a snake too discovers another crown in the grass and puts it on her head. The other animals decide she’s a queen and show due respect, all but mouse; he’s less than pleased.
Then it’s the fox’s turn to discover a crown – that’s two queens and before you can say ‘ruler’ the other animals all declare themselves either a king or a queen.
All that is except the bear and off he goes in search of a crown. Unsuccessful, the bear is downcast as he watches the others prancing round showing off their regality and then he shambles away.
The mouse notices his absence and seeks bear out. Then the little creature fashions a special gift for the bear
and together the two share and savour what is really important.
Who is the real leader here and what makes him/her so? These are questions you could invite the children you share this poignant book with to consider and talk about.
The thoroughly engaging story of inclusion and friendship ends with a beautiful balance created by a final wordless page …
Throughout, Dena Seiferling’s illustrations provide additional visual interest with details you need to search for, as well as in the form of tiny playful vignettes on many of the pages of text.