From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4. When a head louse bites a king, the insect is proclaimed to have royal blood, and the monarch commands that it should be fed and protected. When the creature dies, a guitar is fashioned from its carcass, and the king, who loves a riddle, proposes a contest. The person who can correctly identify the guitar's material may marry the princess. A poor peasant thinks perhaps this will be a way to make his fortune. On his way to the king, he accumulates three insects: a grasshopper, a beetle, and a flea, all of whom aid him in his quest to provide the correct answer. Since the peasant is already married, he is rewarded with a mule loaded with riches. The illustrations for this broad comedy are bold and crude. Rayevsky's palette is intense, saturated, flat, and in mostly primary colors. The cartoonlike characters are outlined with thick black line. Kimmel attributes this story to one found in Ruth Sawyer's Picture Tales from Spain (Lippincott, 1936; o.p.), which features a flea instead of a louse. Though Kimmel has tightened it considerably, the text is still long. In the process, some charming elements have been eliminated. For telling to school children who endure regular head checks, librarians with the Sawyer version will do well to stick with the original and change the flea to a louse.?Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 3-5. A biting story in more ways than one, this sardonic adaptation of a folktale from Ruth Sawyer's Picture Tales from Spain
(1936) features a king who picks a louse from his head and turns it into a pampered pet because "it has royal blood in its veins." Dining on ever larger hosts, the louse swells to horse size, then dies--whereupon the king secretly has a guitar fashioned from its shell and promises a princess to anyone who can guess his instrument's origin. No one can, of course, until a peasant arrives with three insect advisers. Being married already, the triumphant peasant departs with a mule (plus treasure from three very relieved infantas); the peasant's flea stays at court and works its way up, so to speak. Rayevsky's illustrations, done in a broad, coarse style, with lines drawn in crayon and figures floating against blank, monotone backgrounds, contrast with the saturated colors and the small sans serif typeface that occasionally breaks into oversize bold to give the book a sophisticated look. The story is available in several collections; for picture-book audiences, this makes a good alternative to or replacement for Verna Aardema's African version, The Riddle of the Drum
(1979). John Peters