Here’s a parable sort of story, one that reads like a cautionary tale but also has a richness to it that’s full of heart and angst and absurdity.
Because here’s a sheep, just like the other sheep except for the windblown crown that lands at his feet. Once stuck atop his head though, he is unlike the others. He alone is Louis I, King of the sheep. That is what an unexpected crown means, right?
A mark of a great picture book is its recognition of truth in the world, for all readers, from kids to grownups. And while grownups might see complex themes here, this is not unlike daily goings-on at recesses or on playgrounds all across everywhere.
With his newfound leadership and gumption, Louis I makes all kinds of rules and procedures for himself and his subjects. There’s the one about carrying a scepter at all times, occupying a throne, and addressing his people.
It doesn’t matter to Louis I that his scepter is a branch and his throne is a crook in a tree. By the time he addresses his people, he is fully engulfed in his daydream. The art has gone from fanciful to fantastic, and it is a funny stretch of pages.
And then from fantastic to downright ridiculous. The reader can see so clearly through this poor sheep’s façade, and we are equal parts play-along and patronizing.
But then Louis I goes a tad too far with his power, a power that has taken a turn to the oppressive. A blue crown whooshed in on a whim created this kind of leader.
Where this book is a nod to playfulness, there’s some real hurt that can happen when we claim power that doesn’t belong to us. All of that, packed into a picture book about a sheep and a gust of wind. A gust of wind that ultimately blows that blue crown back out into the ether. A gust of wind that turned this despot back into plain old Louis the sheep.
Don’t miss the very last page here. A killer ending!