As a parent I read a *lot* if children’s books, so I felt it was appropriate to review some of these as well.
The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee and illustrated by Pascal Campion is intended for young children, the publisher advising ages 3-7. It is an appropriate length for that age at 32 pages with interesting art that will likely capture the attention of most youngsters. Goodreads Link
The story itself is about a boy named Daniel who’s parents work the night shift as janitors at a corporate headquarters together. When childcare falls through, they have to take their sleepy son with them. As Daniel’s parents clean the messy building, they weave a story with him of a King, Queen, and the very messy dragons that work for them in the Paper Kingdom as they clean the boardroom and cafeteria, bathrooms, and office spaces. My own sons (4 & 6) found the book quite entertaining. The older of the two caught on to the notes of empathy and inequality in the story where Daniel gets quite upset that his parents have to work so hard to to clean up after the “dragons” and that there was no one who could help Daniel’s parents look after Daniel. According to the author, the book is based on her own experiences having to go to work with her working-class parents, so this was likely something the author was hoping for. The art style also contributes to the idea that this might be the recollections an older child or young adult looking back on these experiences.
I think a story like this may have been a better fit for a longer, slightly more mature story targeting 6-12 year olds, but it still works. I would give it an 8/10 and recommend it to parents of children 5 or older. Younger children may enjoy the story and the art, but will likely not pick up on some of the messaging behind the book’s creation. I will leave you with a quote from the story printed on the back cover.
“He decided if he became king some day, he would not yell at the little dragons, but he’d make sure they cleaned their mess. That way, Mama and Papa wouldn’t have to.”