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From The Asian Reporter, V15, #3 (January 18, 2005), page 12.
Finally finding fun
The Littlest Emperor
By David Seow
Illustrated by Olga Marie Polunin
Hardcover, 32 pages, $15.95
By Josephine Bridges
Although he was the littlest of emperors, he had the biggest, kindest, and wisest heart, and always made sure everyone had a warm house, nice clothes, and plenty of good things to eat." Saddened when he realizes that all his work is done, the Littlest Emperor asks what to do next. "Why donít you have some fun?" suggests his Grand Adviser, but no one in the palace can tell him how. The Littlest Emperor is the thought-provoking story of the young monarchís quest for something common yet strangely elusive.
A new "great palace with a towering pagoda" doesnít capture his interest. A "grand opera with beautiful costumes and wonderful music" puts him to sleep. Poets recite poems praising him, but he gets "bored with hearing only about himself." When he is treated to a banquet with "more food than anyone could possibly eat," he thinks about the hungry people he wishes he could share the feast with. "Just as the Littlest Emperor was giving up hope of ever finding fun," his carriage gets stuck in the mud. In this unlikely situation, he finally finds what he is looking for.
When I was a childrenís librarian, I often stopped reading books before the end and asked my story-time participants what they thought was going to happen. The Littlest Emperor is perfect for this kind of interactive reading. While the Littlest Emperorís secret to having fun may seem obvious in retrospect, I wonder how many children, or even adults, would predict it.
David Seow, a native of Singapore who studied at Oregon Episcopal School and the University of Portland, has written a surprisingly subtle tale in The Littlest Emperor. Olga Poluninís illustrations, following the mood of the story, are colorful and pleasant as the Littlest Emperor conducts his search, but positively mischievous when they depict our little hero finally finding fun.
Have fun with The Littlest Emperor.