“The King and the Ogre” by William J. Birrell

“The King and the Ogre” by William J. Birrell 279 445 Reader Views Kids

The King and the Ogre
William J Birrell
Tellwell Talent (2024)
ISBN: 978-1779411426
Reviewed by Terri Stepek for Reader Views (05/2024)

The moment I opened “The King and the Ogre” by William J. Birrell, I knew this was no ordinary children’s book. The uniquely beautiful art that covers these pages is stunning in its duplicitous mix. Bearing the hallmarks of smudged chalk with the rainbow hues of watercolors, the images burst off the pages. There’s a feel of minimal detail, creating a relaxing sensation for the reader. But further inspection shows the illustrations are carefully detailed, reminiscent of early animation where simple backgrounds would be created, and then more detailed characters would be laid on top of the backgrounds for filming.

I hadn’t read one word yet, but I was in love with this book.

Mr. Birrell introduces readers to a good king, Liam, who loves and protects his townspeople as though they were his own children. For there are “troublesome creatures” living in the mountains nearby who become “a bit of a danger” each year at harvest time. King Liam thinks of them as silly dragons, a term I grew to love as the storyline progresses. For the king never taunts or belittles the dragons. He never talks about them as if they are thugs or bullies. 

On days too, when the sun shone brightly, they would often fly down from the crisp blue skies, gliding low over the village. All of the townspeople would duck for cover, running for safety in every direction, spilling over tables and chairs and various goods in the process.

But silly dragons aren’t the only creatures of interest in Liam’s kingdom. His best friend, Arlo, is an ogre. Arlo is a gentle and happy ogre who willingly helps the townspeople during harvest time, picking the fruit that is out of reach of their ladders.  Even more amazing, Arlo helps the children learn that being different is okay…

…as long as you have love and kindness in your heart and you care deeply about others around you.

During this year’s harvest, Liam and Arlo hatch a daring plan to stop the silly dragons from flying over their fields and orchards, gathering fruit, and interrupting the harvest celebration by swooping low over the heads of the people. But can they pull it off? If they are successful, what will they find?

Themes of caring for others, accepting others, and being kind run throughout this beautiful tale. King Liam and his friend Arlo lead by example in these generous traits. As they learn why the silly dragons act as they do, they choose a wise and kind path going forward. These lush pages offer more than just beauty as readers are exposed to the wisdom and grace of two unlikely companions and the dragons they refer to as silly.

I highly recommend this delightful story full of goodness for families with children through age twelve. Pre-readers will love having the story read to them as they enjoy the stunning illustrations. Pre-teens will enjoy reading the story for themselves. Adults need not fear that this tale might be terrifying for children. The phrase referring to the silly dragons as being “a bit of a danger” is as close to intense as the story gets. In fact, careful rereading of the first quote from the book (above) will show that the dragons do not damage the village.  It’s the actions of the scared townspeople when the dragons fly over that are destructive. 

William J. Birrell’s “The King and the Ogre” with its beautiful truths is suitable for any time of the year. With its focus on the harvest celebration, however, it easily reminds us of Thanksgiving, which would be an especially delightful time of year to share this tale with additional gathered family.

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