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Book review: Bil Lepp's wit found in heartwarming fable

By Sarah Sullivan

"The King of Little Things." By Bil Lepp. Illustrated by David T. Wenzel. Peachtree Publishers. Ages 4-8. 32 pages. $16.95.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In his new picture book, Bil Lepp, the award-winning storyteller, recording artist and five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest, has crafted a lively and comic tale with an underlying message about humility and honesty overcoming power and greed.

"The King of Little Things," illustrated by David T. Wenzel and published by Peachtree Publishers, takes place long ago in a far-off kingdom where the King of Little Things happily rules over all things small, "from buttons to beetles, from marbles to macaroni." Unlike bigger kings, he is happy with what he has and wants "nothing more."

Meanwhile, in another kingdom, the greediest of all rulers, King Normous, can never have enough. He sets out to conquer every "king, queen, czar, empress, chieftain, rajah, and sultan in the world." He is dumbfounded when his steward reminds him that there is a King of Little Things whom King Normous has yet to conquer.

"What nonsense," howls King Normous. "Everyone knows that little things exist only to serve big things."

And so begins the battle between the humble King of Little Things and King Normous.

In a plot with echoes of Aesop's fable "The Lion and the Mouse," King Normous attempts to defeat the King of Little Things with might and power, but ultimately "it is the little things that keep the big things going," and King Normous is foiled at every turn.

Readers familiar with Lepp's style and wit will delight in the wordplay found in this heartwarming story. Tongue-twisting rhymes offer young listeners a rich vocabulary.

A special feature of the book is found in the end papers, which contain images of objects from the illustrations that accompany the text. Readers are invited to search for the page on which each object appears. There is an answer key hidden under the jacket flap on the back cover creating a game, which extends enjoyment of the book beyond simple reading and discussion.

Wenzel, best-known for his graphic novel adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," has created a dark palette and comic style ideally suited to the fairytale setting of Lepp's story.

Lepp will do a reading and sign books at 1 p.m. Sept. 8 at Taylor Books.

Sarah Sullivan is the author of "All That's Missing" (Candlewick, 2013) and four picture books, including "Passing The Music Down." She can be reached at www.sarahsullivanbooks.com or sarahglenn1@mail.com.


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