It’s Spring…somewhere! As we cross our fingers in the frosty northern regions of the US that a certain groundhog will not see his (or her) shadow today, I can’t help thinking about places where spring already has arrived and the celebrations that herald that arrival. Today’s Perfect Picture Book features a celebration of spring’s arrival from Pakistan:
Title: King for a Day
Written By: Rukhsana Khan
Illustrated By: Christiane Krömer
Publisher/date: Lee & Low Books/2014
Suitable for Ages: 6-10
Themes/Topics: spring festivals; kites; Pakistan; physical challenges; #ReadYourWorld
Basant is the most exciting day of the year! With feasts and music and parties, people celebrate the arrival of spring. And many will make their way to the rooftops of Lahore to test their skills in kite-flying battles.
Brief Synopsis: A young Pakistani boy battles with his kite to snag other kites and become the winner, the king, of the spring festival, Basant.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Pakistan;
- Celebrate Basant, a festival to mark the arrival of spring, and learn how it is celebrated in Pakistan;
- Make and fly a kite;
- Check out more ideas in the Teacher’s Guide.
Why I Like this Book:
King for a Day is a wonderfully diverse book, featuring not just a colorful spring festival about which most of us know little, a glimpse into a city, Lahore, Pakistan, which most of us will never visit, but also a wheelchair-bound main character. With his one kite and plucky spirit, kids will root for Malik as his kite, Falcon, like a great bird of prey, circles and slices the string of the neighboring bully’s kite, Goliath. I think kids will also feel satisfied at the ending when Malik shares a special something with a young girl who is crying.
Krömer’s vivid, collaged illustrations bring Lahore and the story to life. I especially enjoyed the many kites depicted in the middle of the story – so vibrant and reminiscent of a perfect spring day.
A Note about Craft:
King for a Day is an interesting glimpse into a Pakistani city and festival, that features a boy in a wheelchair. Featuring a physically-challenged main character adds a rich layer to an already culturally diverse story. Interestingly, Malik’s physical condition is not mentioned in the text; rather, we know he’s in a wheelchair only because of the illustrations. In this way, Krömer broadens the appeal of the book and expands the potential audience.
Khan is an #OwnVoices author, but Krömer admits in a fascinating interview with Khan, that she knew nothing about Lahore before starting the project, and the first images she saw were of violence and a male-dominated festival. Anyone who sees King for a Day will be astonished by this revelation. So how did Krömer come to understand the setting and story? In the interview and a behind-the-art look at her process on Lee & Low’s site, she recounts how she viewed a Mughal art exhibit and incorporated the style of the Mughal architecture into her collages, how she visited Pakistani neighborhoods and came to understand the dominant colors to incorporate, and how she purchased Pakistani cloth in the garment district of Manhattan to use in the collages. In a word, I’d say she immersed herself virtually and as physically as possible without actually visiting Lahore. I think those of us who are non-#OwnVoices illustrators or authors can learn from Krömer’s dedication to detail and process as we incorporate characters, scenes, or cultural events about which we may not be all that familiar in our own writing.
Check out Khan’s website, which includes not only information about her own books, but a listing of books about Muslims.
View more illustrations from King for a Day at Krömer’s website.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!