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Saturday, December 10, 2011

King Hugo's Big Ego, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $19.00 ages 5 and up

"The next day when the king awoke,
he climbed down from his bed
and gazed into his looking glass
admiringly and  said,
"I do believe, dear Hugo,
you're more handsome than last night."
But when he put his crown back on,
it felt a little tight."

King Hugo is proof in the pudding that 'pride goeth before the fall'! He has little regard for anyone but himself...until one momentous day! He is in his opulent coach when a young hard-working Tessa blocks his path. Rather than go around her, he had his coachmen bump her into the muddy gutter. Little does he know that she has magic on her side! And that is his comeuppance:

"A pox on you, O cocky king
in robes of ruby red.
Let's see if all your arrogance
can fit inside your head."

You will laugh out loud, and so will your listeners as you regale them with this story of a king who is much too full of himself, and the results of his having little regard for the people around him. There is music in the rhythmic text, and the story moves quickly while Hugo takes quite a long time to realize just exactly what is happening to him, and why.

Young listeners may not know someone who resembles King Hugo, many of those adults sharing the story will recognize a friend, an acquaintance or a colleague in him. That just adds to the hilarity of the situation he finds himself in, and allows for the repeated readings that are sure to be requested.

Chris Van Dusen knows his full-of-himself king and he fills these brightly colored gouache illustrations with comic twists, expressive faces, a range of perspectives, heraldry, exaggerated movement and a plentiful dose of humor.

It is a joy to read aloud, and assures the audience that even a king can learn a badly needed lesson!

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