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Review of King of the Sky

King of the Sky
by Nicola Davies; illus. by Laura Carlin
Primary    Candlewick    48 pp.
6/17    978-0-7636-9568-2    $17.99

“It rained and rained and rained…The streets smelled of mutton soup and coal dust. And no one spoke my language. All of it told me this is not where you belong.” An elderly Welsh miner and a young Italian boy bond over the care and training of homing pigeons in this atmospheric and hopeful tale of immigration and friendship. Told in the first person by the boy, who has been unwillingly transplanted from Rome to Wales, the narrative follows the pair as they train Mr. Evans’s pigeons, including a small one with a white head the boy names Re del Cielo, King of the Sky. Re del Cielo is the boy’s favorite, but the bird shows little promise until he enters a distance race. He returns (not without suspense) all the way from Rome a champion, and with that return, the boy finds his own sense of belonging. Davies’s poetic language includes moments of precise description (such as the race rings on the birds’ legs or the basket in which Re del Cielo travels by train to Rome), while other details (such as the name of the boy or his adopted Welsh town) are never mentioned, establishing a setting that is both recognizable and foreign. Carlin’s smudgy, near-transparent mixed-media illustrations, depicting soot and sun and shadow, capture the essences of the old and new homelands, and a number of wordless spreads emphasize the differences, and distances, between them. Quiet, tender, and profound, this window into immigration offers an intimate understanding of just what it means to come home.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Thom Barthelmess About Thom Barthelmess

Thom Barthelmess is Youth Services Manager for the Whatcom County Library System in northwest Washington State.

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Comments

  1. “Carlin’s smudgy, near-transparent mixed-media illustrations, depicting soot and sun and shadow, capture the essences of the old and new homelands, and a number of wordless spreads emphasize the differences, and distances, between them. Quiet, tender, and profound, this window into immigration offers an intimate understanding of just what it means to come home.”

    Thrilled to see this review here. And typically a masterful one to boot! When I am asked what the absolute greatest book of 2017 is, foreign or domestic this title comes up as often as the American title I pose. Love this author and artist. The book always makes me think of Ken Loach’s 1969 film masterpiece “Kes” though it owes nothing to anyone. Staggering masterpiece. Thank you for the fantastic capsule review!

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