Reviews for King Jack and the Dragon

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
Three boys in various stages of diaperdom build a cardboard castle in the back garden and fight dragons and beasts until suppertime in this picture-book adventure from award-winning British creators. With just a few words per page, the rhyming text is printed in typefaces that vary in size and boldness, underscoring the mounting drama, while Oxenbury's alternating full-color watercolors and sepia sketches juxtapose the boys' imaginings with their real-world context. Enormous dragons and fantastical creatures retreat when the boys attack with wooden swords and sticks, but the young heroes are no match for their "giant" parents, who come to retrieve them, one by one, at day's end. The rhyming verse, large trim size, and detailed illustrations, filled with Oxenbury's usually fine sense of young children's body language and expressions, make this a suitable story for group sharing, while the sweet, intimate tone will make it a family favorite. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
In this classically sweet picture book, two preschoolers and a toddler build a cardboard-box fortress and protect it from dragons until darkness falls and their parents take them home. Bently's unforced rhyming couplets swing along, and Oxenbury, in gentle watercolors and cross-hatched line drawings, showcases her gift for portraying the personalities and relationships of young children. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #6
Two preschoolers and a toddler build a cardboard-box fortress in the backyard and protect it from dragons and beasts until darkness falls and their parents come to take them home. From this simple premise of imaginative play, Bently and Oxenbury create a classically sweet picture book. Bently's unforced rhyming couplets swing along, and Oxenbury, in gentle watercolors and cross-hatched line drawings, showcases her distinctive gift for portraying the personalities and relationships of young children through their shapes and gestures. Jack the ringleader is a bit tentative and vulnerable. We see it in his skinny little ankles. Zack, second in command, is stu dier. His strong fingers try to pry his father's hand away as he's taken home to bed. Casper, the bald and bottom-heavy baby, looks at the older boys with deep adoration. Even the dragons and beasts are particular characters -- the truculent green scaly one, the shy bucktoothed pink spotted one, and the tufted dog-nosed muddled one. This is a fine story for all sword-wielding, cupcake-eating kings-of-the-castle and their friends. sarah ellis Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #2

A trio of children spends the day playing in their fort, defending it from dragons and beasts, before reality intrudes at nightfall.

Gentle, unassuming rhyme tells the story of Zack, Caspar and King Jack, who make a glorious fort in Jack and Caspar's backyard out of a cardboard box and other tried-and-true materials. As she did so memorably in We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Oxenbury alternates black-and-white vignettes of the "real" goings-on with gorgeous, full-bleed single- and double-page spreads of the fantasy action. Her palette and composition of these fantasy scenes (and the lumpy miens of the beasts) recall Max's sojourn among the wild things, but this is no retread of either classic. The children—preschooler Jack, his toddler brother Caspar and pal Zack—are happy playmates consciously indulging in make-believe. Reality and fantasy merge at the end of the day when "a giant came by and went home with Sir Zack" (a parental hand drags the protesting little boy off) and "another giant came and took Caspar to bed" (he is unceremoniously carried off in the crook of Mommy's arm). Does King Jack have the starch to defend the fort by himself? Who needs starch with a Mommy and Dad like Jack's?

Sure to be read aloud again and again, this testament to imaginative play exudes warmth. (Picture book. 3-6)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 May #3

Fort making is one of the great enterprises of childhood, but just in case the art has been lost to some, Bently (The Great Dog Bottom Swap) and Oxenbury (There's Going to Be a Baby) open their felicitous collaboration with what is essentially an illustrated instruction manual: "A big cardboard box,/ an old sheet and some sticks,/ a couple of trash bags,/ a few broken bricks,/ a fine royal throne/ from a ragged old quilt,/ a drawbridge, a flag--/ and the castle was built." Declaring himself king, Jack leads his friends Zack and Caspar in defending the fort against a menagerie of imaginary creatures. But when Jack's knights are carried off by giants (their parents), Jack finds that a solo defense of the fort is no picnic: "He wished he was anything else but a king." Bently's verse never misses a beat, and Oxenbury shifts between monochromatic, engraving-like drawings and pale watercolors; the images feel as if they were drawn from a classic fairy tale book and contemporary life simultaneously. It's an enchanting tribute to both full-throttle pretend play and the reassurance of a parent's embrace. Ages 3-5. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 September

PreS-K--"Jack, Zack, and Casper were making a den--a mighty great fort for King Jack and his men." So begins this delicious tale of three adventurous youngsters whose day is filled with constructing a castle (construction box, trash bags, and a ragged quilt) and battling dragons and beasts in an imaginary forest. When evening arrives, Zack and Casper are scooped up seemingly by giants (their parents) and taken home. Alone, Jack at first braves the quivering trees and sounds of scampering animals until a four-footed "SOMETHING" looms out of the night. But no, it is his parents, and Jack, riding home on his father's shoulders, claims, "I knew you weren't really a dragon." Soft colors and the fanciful expressions on the various creatures offset any scare youngsters might find in the story, and the children's beguiling faces are warm and friendly. A balance of brown-toned crosshatched drawings and full-color artwork adds to the easy flow of the action. A tale of make-believe that children will delight in hearing again and again.--Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA

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