Posted by: Erica Gillingham | February 9, 2012

King & King

King & King

Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, Berkeley: Tricycle Press,  ISBN-13: 978-1-8246-061-1, $14.95, 2002.

It’s the second week of LGBT History Month in the UK and this Thursday I’ve got King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland for you! I can safely say that the conversations between co-blogger, Sarah, and I about this incredible picture book are too numerous to count. In short, you simply must check out this story. But first, I’ll tell you a bit more about it.

A co-creation between de Haan and Nijland, the illustrations of this picture book are done in multimedia, not dissimilar to Lauren Child’s picture books (for those in the UK and elsewhere that are familiar with her stories!) but delightfully rougher and more textured. (I often find myself wanting to feel the prince’s fur-lined coat.) The narrative begins in a familiar fairy tale tone: ‘On the tallest mountain above the town lived a queen, the young crown prince, and the crown kitty.’

In summary, the queen is tired of ruling and has decided it is time her son became king, requiring him to marry by the end of summer. The prince is none to thrilled about this prospect, mostly because he has never been taken much with princesses. It follows that none of his suitors from neighbouring kingdoms are any different from the princesses he has met before. The exception is Princess Madeline who attends the prince with her brother, Prince Lee. ‘At last, the prince felt a stir in his heart. It was love at first sight.’ Both princes exclaim ‘”What a wonderful prince!”‘ and are married directly to be in love happily ever after.

What touches me about this picture book is its focus on love, and a love that happens to be between two men. de Haan and Nijland fit it subversively into a traditional story mode and do not make an ‘issue’ of homosexuality or gay marriage within the narrative. I think it’s this simplicity which makes the picture book accessible to children regardless of their parents’ relationship (i.e. gay or straight) and is a positive expression of feelings from one person to another. If you don’t know this picture book, do yourself a favour and give it a read!

**de Haan and Nijland also wrote a follow up book called King & King & Family in which they adopt a little girl from their honeymoon. It’s worth reading, too, but not as successful, I think, as King & King.

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