Welcome to the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, a place devoted to offering children's book recommendations and advice about the whats and whens and whos and hows of sharing books in the home. Find us on Twitter @HornBook and on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheHornBook

Two picture-book, read-alike suggestions for the new royal parents (it's a boy!)

His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story
by Sally Lloyd-Jones; illus. by David Roberts
Primary    Candlewick    48 pp.
9/17    978-0-7636-9793-8    $16.99

“Once upon a time, there was a Happy Family” consisting of a mother, father, daughter (shown with tights on her head simulating long, blonde, princess-y hair), and pet gerbil. Life was grand until “one horrible, NOT NICE day, when a new ruler was born.” The newly minted big sister describes, in a classic-fairy-tale narrative style, the havoc wreaked by her demanding baby brother. Even better, she draws the story as she sees it, in entertaining childlike illustrations that mirror — and some-times humorously deviate from — Roberts’s watercolor and pen art showing the book’s true events. (Though Roberts, too, gets cheeky with his imagery — see the picture of King Baby as Louis XIV.) The stylish illustrations situate the story in the 1960s/1970s, with bell-bottoms and groovy patterns and prams and wicker chairs; this combined with the author’s and illustrator’s dedications (respectively: “To Siân, my baby sister” and “For my mum and her baby brother”) points to the possibility that the tale is at least semi-autobiographical. And while it’s true that a new baby can be a royal pain in the bum, the princess eventually learns that having a doting little playmate has its benefits. Pair with Kate Beaton’s King Baby (no relation). ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

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

King Baby
by Kate Beaton; illus. by the author
Preschool    Levine/Scholastic    40 pp.
10/16    978-0-545-63754-1    $17.99    g

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but this ruler can’t yet support his own neck. A king (really a newborn baby) greets his loyal subjects (really relatives and friends of the family): “I am King Baby!…I will give you many blessings, for King Baby is generous.” The hand-drawn and digitally completed illustrations show that he’s adorable and sweet and cuddly, egg-shaped with little rosy cheeks, a benevolent-looking ruler. All smiles, he poses for photos and entertains his people. However, and this comes as no surprise, “your king also has many demands!” Like any newborn, King Baby is high-maintenance, unpredictable, and frequently frustrated by his parents’ lack of understanding: “Bring me the thing…Not this thing!…Bring me the other thing!” His frustration motivates him to learn to crawl, then to walk. King Baby, having outgrown his moniker, worries about who will watch over his subjects…but the arrival of Queen Baby ensures the line of succession. The spare, humorous text is mostly from autocratic King Baby’s point of view (Mom and Dad get in a couple of lines of speech-bubble dialogue). Unlike King Baby himself, Beaton’s illustrations are unfussy (ha!), with lots of white space; the spread in which he learns to crawl (first falling on his face) is slapstick for toddlers. “It’s good to be the king,” Mel Brooks famously said in History of the World, Part I, and King Baby thinks so, too. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Elissa Gershowitz and Kitty Flynn
Elissa Gershowitz and Kitty Flynn
Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor and Kitty Flynn is consulting editor of The Horn Book, Inc. They co-parent the Horn Book's Family Reading blog at hbook.com/welcome-to-family-reading

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more


We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.