King for a Day
King for a Day
Rukhsana Khan, illus. by Christiane Krömer
ISBN 9781600606595
Lee & Low, 2013.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: basant bullying contests disabilities family friendship king-for-a-day kite-flying pakistan rukhsana-khan

King for a Day
by Rukhsana Khan, illus. by Christiane Krömer

With a kite-flying contest at its core, the festival of Basant started in Lahore, Pakistan, as a Hindu celebration that "marked... the beginning of warm weather." In one of those contests, narrator Malik explains the ins and outs of navigating his kite, Falcon ("built for speed"), and competes with a bully who has more kites and an endless supply of insults. Christiane Krömer (Anh's Anger) depicts the hero in a wheelchair on the rooftop of his building, while the bully remains on the ground. Rukhsana Khan (Big Red Lollipop) makes no mention in the text of Malik being wheelchair-bound (he enlists his younger brother's help to collect the kites he hopes to "set free"), allowing all children to see themselves in this battle of wit over might. In the opening faceoff, Malik works his string, "dipping Falcon so it circles Goliath," his nickname for the bully's mammoth, slow-moving kite. As Falcon rubs Goliath's string, the bully's kite string snaps, setting Goliath free. Khan clearly describes subsequent airborne confrontations so young readers can follow Malik's clever strategy to steer Falcon clear of its competitors, and to "pluck them from the sky as if it really is a bird of prey."

Krömer brings the streets of Lahore to life with collage compositions that integrate strips of tapestry, intricate embroidery and charcoal pencil drawings layered over handmade paper. The juxtaposition of these sturdy cityscapes with light and airy kites that fly across the cobalt-blue skies support the theme of spirits soaring.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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