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Friday, September 22, 2017

rulers of the playground, by Joseph Kuefler. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2017. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"Everyone played in King
Jonah's kingdom.
Everyone except for Lennox ...
because she wanted to rule the
playground, too.
"This side of the playground
is now mine," announced Lennox."

There is a lot of talk about power and control in the news today, and every day it seems! If you went to school, even if you can barely remember being there, you will recognize the kind of power often wielded on school playgrounds. Have the rulers been designated during your first few weeks? They likely have done their best to establish territory and dominance.

For young children it is a lesson tough to learn. The powerful seem to take for granted their place in the hierarchy, and others too often comply. All it takes is one person to upset the status quo; a person who might actually lead to a bit of a revolution and deliver a revelation. In this astute and often humorous tale, Jonah makes himself  'king of this land' - the school playground. The front endpapers offers a look at "Jonah's Park" as established by said ruler. Everything is my on the map. There is even the suggestion that the big field might have booby traps!

"Jonah's kingdom had slides,
so everyone pinkie promised.

And just like that, Jonah became
king of the playground."

Until Lennox ...

"This side of the playground is now mine,"
announced Lennox. "Cross your heart
and promise to follow my rules."

The swings are an enticement. Soon, Lennox's side of the playground is rife with children and an argument ensues. A divisive map is drawn. Both rulers make elaborate plans for growth. Their thirst for power becomes overwhelming. Soon, they are on their own. A new plan is made; the leaders rethink their actions; the playground is, once more, a happy and vibrant environment.

The thirst for power is pointedly evident in the endpapers and the demeanor of the two vying for dominance over all playground participants. The expressive faces of the other children show exactly how happy, then frustrated, they get with decisions being made for them. It is great fun to pay attention to them as the conflict rages on. I love the double page spreads reflecting the playground panoramas, and all of the action. The art of compromise is a welcome outcome ... perhaps!


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