Three boys in various stages of diaperdom build a cardboard castle in the back garden and fight dragons and beasts until suppertime in this picture-book adventure from award-winning British creators. With just a few words per page, the rhyming text is printed in typefaces that vary in size and boldness, underscoring the mounting drama, while Oxenbury's alternating full-color watercolors and sepia sketches juxtapose the boys' imaginings with their real-world context. Enormous dragons and fantastical creatures retreat when the boys attack with wooden swords and sticks, but the young heroes are no match for their "giant" parents, who come to retrieve them, one by one, at day's end. The rhyming verse, large trim size, and detailed illustrations, filled with Oxenbury's usually fine sense of young children's body language and expressions, make this a suitable story for group sharing, while the sweet, intimate tone will make it a family favorite. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Fort making is one of the great enterprises of childhood, but just in case the art has been lost to some, Bently (The Great Dog Bottom Swap) and Oxenbury (There's Going to Be a Baby) open their felicitous collaboration with what is essentially an illustrated instruction manual: "A big cardboard box,/ an old sheet and some sticks,/ a couple of trash bags,/ a few broken bricks,/ a fine royal throne/ from a ragged old quilt,/ a drawbridge, a flag—/ and the castle was built." Declaring himself king, Jack leads his friends Zack and Caspar in defending the fort against a menagerie of imaginary creatures. But when Jack's knights are carried off by giants (their parents), Jack finds that a solo defense of the fort is no picnic: "He wished he was anything else but a king." Bently's verse never misses a beat, and Oxenbury shifts between monochromatic, engraving-like drawings and pale watercolors; the images feel as if they were drawn from a classic fairy tale book and contemporary life simultaneously. It's an enchanting tribute to both full-throttle pretend play and the reassurance of a parent's embrace. Ages 3–5. (Aug.)
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