The end of March 2018 saw a reissue of a Tomie dePaola classic Big Anthony and the Magic Ring (now called Strega Nona’s Magic Ring). The beginning of March saw a reissue of The Clown of God (last night was the first time I could read without crying my eyes out). And early April saw a rare site: dePaola’s text and illustrations by Doug Salati with, In a Small Kingdom. It is a miracle I can tear myself away from reading them! (Yes, my friends, I am a Tomie dePaola stalker, I mean fan).
I am such a fan that as a child my mother stood in line to get his autograph for me. I have fan-girled more than once meeting him and know it will be a dark day when he goes to be The Illustrator of God.
Strega Nona’s Magic Ring continues the misadventures of her assistant, Big Anthony. His bungling is a cautionary tale of being careful, mindful and knowing limits. The Clown of God is religious but not overly. The story is of vanity, giving of yourself and love. These stories are based in his Italian history and the stories he grew up on. They then take on his interpretation to present them to another generation. Other stories are based in his Irish ancestry and his own personal experiences. Tomie dePaola is a storyteller to the highest degree.
And with In a Small Kingdom the storytelling is there. The old king has died and he names his youngest son heir. The child’s older half-brother is jealous and sets off to stop his brother from being strong enough to rule by destroying the cloak that is said to have given strength to the old king. However, with love and the kingdoms help, the new king will have his own special way of being a good ruler.
Doug Salati’s illustrations are uniquely his own and have a nod to dePaola. They are detailed and vivid colors. His people are as diverse as the people of the world. There is a slight contrast between the city and the forest outside of the walls, but at the same time everything flows together. When I saw some of the images of the forest I did think there were some notes to Christianity, but it is not so that if someone is not religious they would be offended. The theme of the book is Love and the illustrations reflect this. There are mixed couples, old and young together, the village comes together to help the kingdom as well as the king. There is a lot going on in a few pages.
While this may not become a dePaola classic, it is a must for fans of his or for people who enjoy good books. I can see this as a gift for a newborn, first birthday or even when someone is having a hard time. This book can be read anytime, but I think it will best be enjoyed with a loved one.