The King of Space by Jonny Duddle
Phew! It’s a been a busy World Book Week this week – Happy World Book Day wherever you are! I’ve got a wee bit to catch up on but I will be back to regular updating soon, including my post on what exactly it is I’ve been doing to entertain 400+ children with bookish activities.
In the meantime though – behold! A new Jonny Duddle!
Rex may look like any other 6 year old, looking after the Moogs on his parents’ farm and going to Mini Galatic Citizen school, but he’s got grand plans. He aims to become nothing less than the King of Space, and he’s got just the idea to make sure he gets crowned! With the help of his too-trusting friends, Rex constructs his giant, dung-blasting robots and prepares to take over the galaxy. Until he goes that little bit too far and runs afoul of Princess Kooki…
First off, this is the same chappy who wrote the phenomenally popular Pirate Cruncher and The Pirates Next Door (which won a prize, doncha know?) and, I got rather excited to see, also designed the characters for the animated film Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (the link has some rather nifty videos and links to more information – the Pirate with Prosthetics is fascinating!). So with all that under his belt, Templar have rather pushed the boat out with this edition of Mr Duddle’s new book. So far it’s only available in hardback, but to be honest, with a book this pretty it’s worth it. There is a little present in store too in that the dust jacket can be nattily unfolded into a doublesided poster, and a very nice one at that.
The inside is pretty natty too, very dark and atmospheric. I love the little touches and inside jokes you find scattered about, like the references to Julius Caesar and Napoleon in Rex’s room…
Although I believe both Mr Duddle’s previous Pirates books were rhyming, this one doesn’t. It’s a bit disconcerting at first to not have that rhythm beneath this story (the one in the Pirates Next Door makes it great to read aloud and just plain fun for the reader) , but to be honest, there’s so much going on this book that it doesn’t really need to rhyme. I’m not sure it would have added anything, since I reckon the reader would be too busy devouring the pictures and the detail to need the rhythm to move the story on and draw them in.
The characters themselves are brilliant fun. My two especial favourites are Princess Kooki (who’s a little bit Leia-riffic) and Xarg (as a fellow conoisseur of toast, I wholeheartedly approve of the little pink blob).
I love Princess Kooki’s way of handling Rex and his damp squib is efforts to please her become, and Rex himself is very endearing as the ambitious mischiefmaker. The real star though has got to be Rex’s mum, for reasons that will not be divulged for fear of ruining the ending. Just trust me that she is a mum to aspire to and be in awe of.
The thing that really strikes me though above all else with this book is how atmospheric it is. You can almost feel Space around you as you follow Rex and his bizarre plans, and at the risk of sounding poncy, Mr Duddle’s use of light is just awesome. I mean, look at this;
For a book that uses so much black and blue, there’s na awful lot of light going on. I wish I could show you more of this page because it’s part of a double page panorama that, as you can see, opens up again to become so large I had to photograph this on my bed as there was no more room on my desk. It would give away the ending to show it, but please believe me when I say I would buy this book (if I didn’t already have it) just for that last spread. The dark of space, all the space ships and the headlights in the gloom… just brilliant.
So, funny little story, great characters and the expected grogrous illustrations Mr Duddle is known for make this a great bedtime read. The dust cover/poster combo is just the cherry on top.