Today James Holdstock reviews the children's book King Billy and the Royal Road by RC Ajuonuma. And there's a giveaway! The author has kindly offered paperback copy as a prize. To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
Billy lives like a prince with his mum, eating all the feasts and treats a boy could want. He doesn’t know much about people and places because she never lets him out.
One day, he wakes up peckish and sneaks off for a snack. But what begins as a trip to town becomes a search for a new friend and the start of a magical journey…
King Billy and the Royal Road is a children's book written entirely in rhyme by RC Ajuonuma and illustrated by Beverley Young.
The whole book is one long poem and appeared to be a very dream like journey for Billy.
A Trumpet blew loud,
Like a call from a cloud,
And Billy awoke with a start.
The book describes everything in rhyme and starts with Billy waking up, although reading on, it is surreal and imaginative enough to be a dream.
The themes of the book seemed very deep. To me (an adult) it read as a moral tale that explored emotions such as fear, loss, and childhood.
There is a constant theme of Billy's hunger and his quest to satisfy it. Along the way he is encouraged but also tricked! I felt at first that Billy was a little arrogant but quickly that turned to naive and I almost then felt sorry for Billy as one does watching a child learn life lessons. They are hard but must be learnt. The book juxtaposes light frolicking language and playful characters with a deep sombre overtone.
I felt some of the book was about making choices and that they can be tough and also affect outcomes, for good and bad.
There were a couple of times I had to re-read some of the sections to keep up with the wonderful language. A child reader would possibly have to be relatively advanced but could really get a lot out of this book and it's approach. I thinks it's a great example of poetry with the subject matter appealing to adolescents.
You are guided through the whole book with lovely pictures by Beverley Young that almost act as way markers and do give some light relief from what might be a rewarding but intense reading experience for kids.
In a world where rhymes are often reserved for nursery, it's nice to see an older children's book that plays so much with expressive language.
About the author: RC Ajuonuma enjoys dreaming up stories and writing them down. He also likes theatre and
football, but not necessarily in that order. He lives in London with his family.
About the reviewer: James Holdstock is a People Performance Analyst in London. However, he loves nothing more than pretending to be a medieval knight whether it be visiting castles, playing roleplay games or dressing up! He has always had a passion for history especially medieval England. His aim in writing 'To Murder a King', apart from being very enjoyable, was to inspire younger readers to learn about history and get them reading historical fiction since it's a great way to absorb facts and immerse yourself in our glorious past.