Friday 26 May 2017

ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 26th May 2017 - "King of the Sky" by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin (Oxford University Press / Oxford Children's Books)

Our First Picture Book of the Week this week asks "What must it be like for a child to find themselves uprooted, moved to a new country, where everything seems unfamiliar and quite often unfriendly?"
Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin's sublime "King of the Sky" answers that question by telling the story of a boy who is in exactly that position, with tenderness and understanding emanating from the book in waves.

This timely tale of immigration, upheaval and trying to fit in has enjoyed huge success as a musical play and is about to be turned into a full-on production, but let's dive into the book and tell you why once again books like this are so needed - particularly in our current political climate.

The story examines the boy's feelings of loss and loneliness, and missing the country of his birth and the sights, sounds and smells that meant home to him. He feels lost and alone until the day he befriends a kindly old man called Mr Evans, who keeps racing pigeons.

Mr Evans earned a living deep down underground in the coal mines (I love the way Nicola describes the mines as "taking Mr Evans' breath away" - something I can definitely ship with having one half of the family coming from Wales, with great uncles and second cousins who worked in the mines before they were closed down).

To Mr Evans, the pigeons are majestic and free and both he and the boy marvel at the way they soar through the sky absolutely free of the shackles of the earth.

Their unlikely friendship bonds over hopes for a race win for one of the pigeons that Mr Evans lets the boy name himself.  "King of the Sky" or "Il Re De Cielo" in the boy's own native Italian language.

As the race approaches and their bond deepens, this thoroughly thought provoking and heart warming book conveys a message of hope and friendship, showing children what it would feel like to be displaced with all those strange sensations of being an outsider from the boy's perspective, and how simple kind thoughts and actions can make all the difference.

As Mr Evans begins to become more and more ill, the torch passes to the boy to ensure that "The King of the Sky" enters the grand race across Europe from Italy back to the coal-black valleys. The book ends on such a joyous note that it's almost impossible not to feel like cheering out loud.

Beautiful, beautiful stuff, and I have to say, particularly wonderful to read aloud.

Charlotte's best bit: The tense thrill and anticipation as the race approaches. Can The King of the Sky reign triumphant?

Daddy's favourite bit: All the love for this book, it's perfectly timed, clamours loudly for your attention and understanding of immigration and displacement issues. Above all, a beautifully thoughtful demonstration of how children can have the toughest time of all when moved on and uprooted from their cultural and spiritual homes. Read it, it deserves to win a truckload of awards.

(Kindly supplied for review).

"King of the Sky" by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin is out now, published by Oxford University Press / Oxford Children's Books