“KING JACK AND THE DRAGON,” by Peter Bently and Helen Oxenbury, Dial Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (ages 3 and up)
Imagination is everything when you’re a young child. And it’s the best kind of imagination that’s celebrated in “King Jack and the Dragon,” by Peter Bently and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.
Jack, Zack and Caspar are about the king’s business — King Jack’s that is. Together they are building a castle, complete with a royal throne and a flag. Together, King Jack and his brave knights must protect the castle from ferocious dragons. It’s a task that takes up most of the day, because in addition to dragons, there are beasts that must be vanquished.
After a busy day of battle, the warriors return to their stronghold and spend the night. But a giant comes and takes Sir Zack home and another takes Caspar to bed. Wrapped up in a blanket and sitting on his throne, King Jack has been left all alone. He can battle dragons by himself, he’s sure of it. Though, as the wind makes the trees quiver and a mouse scampers by his nerves start rattling. And then, he hears something coming — something with four feet…
“King Jack and the Dragon” is pure delight from beginning to end. Upon reading it, adults will reminisce on times gone by and youngsters will begin building castles in their own mind’s eye.
Peter Bently’s text has a rhythmical lilt that carries readers from one page to the next. And Helen Oxenbury’s charming illustrations, which range from sparse to magical, will be examined time and time again. When the two elements come together it’s perfection, playing to the words in some places and illustrations in others.
There’s a classic feel to “King Jack and the Dragon” similar to that of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” It’s the type of book you want to share with your children and they’ll want to share with their own.