King & King

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
King & King Book Poster Image
Prince marries a guy in fun fairy-tale twist.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Breaks the fairy tale mold by showing love between two men accepted matter-of-factly by their kingdom. May encourage kids to look at gender roles in conventional fairy tales in a new light.

Positive Messages

Love comes in many forms, and they're equally valid. Shows how assumptions can lead to frustration and fruitless effort. Good relationships are energizing and lift your spirits.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The queen looks a bit displeased when her son shows his fondness for his prince, but otherwise no one bats an eye as the two men wed and settle into life at the palace. The prince appears lazy and dull until he meets his partner, and then he comes to life with rosy cheeks and a smile. Everyone around the prince appears to support the relationship.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that King & King -- by artists Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland -- is the story of a prince finally meeting the man of his dreams and living happily ever after. That's no spoiler, given the title: The fun is seeing the queen and her son's suitors realize what readers know all along. The story ends with two princes getting married and sharing the throne as kings, and everyone around them takes these events in stride. The men share a kiss, with a heart concealing their lips. 

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What's the story?

KING & KING begins with a frustrated, tired queen rousting her son from bed: "I've had enough!" she cries. It's time for him to wed and take the throne. The prince reluctantly agrees, even though, as he says, he doesn't much care for princesses. The queen summons the eligible bachelorettes to the castle, but none of the princesses pleases the prince or his mother. One last princess arrives -- with her brother. It's love at first sight as hearts flutter between the two men. They're soon married and rule, happily, as king and king.

Is it any good?

Fairy-tale traditions get turned upside-down in this sly reworking of the happily-ever-after story, where a bored prince finally meets his true love -- another prince with shining eyes. Groundbreaking when it was published in 2003, King & King now seems clumsy in its handling of gender roles. The prince comes across lazy and dull, his mother unnecessarily shrill. The princesses appear somewhat ridiculous, and all are dismissed as clearly below standards. But the most conventional princess, with flowing blond hair, ultimately brings the prince's beau to the castle. Still, the story's cheekiness keeps it fun to read.

The artistic style is more challenging than the content: Readers will love or hate the collage work. There's an intriguing blend of materials and textures, but the combined effect is disjointed. Some of the facial expressions and harsh and off-putting, making it a hard sell for young ones.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how King & King departs from fairy tale conventions. What other stories do you enjoy that break from the typical prince-rescues-princess fairy tale pattern?

  • How does the prince's appearance and attitude change from the start of the book to the end? Why?

  • The queen begins with the assumption that her son must wed a princess. Have you ever made an assumption about someone you learned was wrong?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love LGBTQ stories and fairy tales

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