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The King and the Sea

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  212 ratings  ·  56 reviews
“Buzz off,” said the king, shooing the bee from his flower.
“Don’t you know I’m the king?”
“And I’m the queen,” said the bee, stinging the king’s nose.
These stunningly illustrated, ultra-short stories are seemingly simple but ultimately profound tales.

In each story, the king has an encounter which he tries to rule over. But of course the rain doesn’t stop just because a king
Paperback, 48 pages
Published 2015 by Gecko Press (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  212 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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A unique and captivating book about a king and each page is a different story about how he interacts with the world. Lots of philosophical discussions are sure to ensue when reading this book with a group of students.
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Each page of this book is a separate very short story. The king heads off into the world and has experiences that offer some deeper meaning. He experiences growth as the book progresses. The illustrations are very simple, weird, and childlike. I think the philosophical undertone will be lost on younger children. Very different style from this Austrian and German team, not my taste.
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Told in 21 tiny stories, this is the life of a king as he moves through the world he rules and encounters the many ways in which a king is just as powerless as any human. The king declares again and again that he is king, but things like the ocean are not impressed and others like the queen bee assert their own authority over his. Other times, the king is reminded of more important things than power, like spending time in the sunshine, letting the rain wash over his face, and the importance of t ...more
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
A proud but thoughtful king is bested by a variety of natural elements in this German import. The king, a creation of crayon and collage, converses with each figure, sometimes asking questions and other times asserting his own kingliness. “Don’t you know I’m the king?” he asks a bee, who promptly replies “And I’m the queen,” and then stings king’s nose. Sometimes the king shows a Zen-like acceptance, like listening to the majesty of the waves of the sea, or laying down in the warm sun with a cat ...more
Once again I find that it is the Austrian writers who provide me with deeply, wise, humorous and brave stories for children. In no way do they ever speak down to their audience. In fact, I'd argue that, from the outset, they challenge them and encourage them to ask questions of who they are and their place in the world. Wonderful stuff.
Wolf's collage and crayon characters and interactions again bring that brilliance of humanity to the king and his encounters whilst Janisch incredible narrative
Nick Swarbrick
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think the cliche is “Darkly comic.” The shadow of Thurber hangs over this, both from the acidic little stories by Janisch and the deceptively simple illustrations by Erlbruch. Stories such as “The King and the Book” are two lines long but open up a world of speculation for adult or child reader -or maybe for a shared readership of child and adult together? Who is the writer when the king talks to his pencil in another story? And how deep can we speculate on insomnia in “The King and Sleep”? Pe ...more
Tammy Flanders
I think adults (of a certain type) will appreciate this book more than children. That being said it could be used in a classroom to spark philosophical discussions. Each story allows us to draw our own conclusions so were not being 'told' a lesson nevertheless it still feels like we should be learning something. Quirky. ...more
This was strange for a kids' book. They are 21 short short stories. Each page has about 4-8 lines of text, which constitute each individual 'story.' Some have little morals to them, some are completely random. The illustrations are not very good. ...more
Mirko Liang
Jun 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
Tiny stories about a king who tries to rule over plants and animals and natural elements. The whole thing is too sparse, I couldn't really capture the essence. ...more
Jane Scholey
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great short stories about a king investigating the world he lives in.
Guilherme Semionato
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sublime, sublime. One of the greatest of all picture books.
Joy Keil
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: clara
A random library pick that turned out quite fun!
Short stories that are only a few lines each make this a simple, but enjoyable book.
This book wasn't so much a story as a series of poem-like vignettes about a king trying to claim power over various inanimate objects or natural features. Ultimately, he gives up that need to control, but it takes him awhile.

Reading each vignette felt like reading a koan-- like you should meditate on the idea that the sea just is for a day, that it cannot be told what to do, rather than jumping into the next vignette. In that context, I found The King and the Sea really interesting, but as a pi
Jim Erekson
Nov 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: picturebooks
This book wasn't much fun to just sit down and read page after page. The 21 episodes felt like they are made to be read one at a time. The first 4-5 were all kind of moralistic, and it was getting boring watching the king learn wisdom. But then the episodes broke into a more whimsical character-based vein. Weird. I'm not convinced that the storyboard puts the episodes in a cohesive narrative order, so I think the book would be better for browsing out of order.

If I wanted to have a 4-star experi
Twenty-one very short stories, originally written in German, follow a king who embarks on a journey to explore the world around him. He starts off rather arrogantly, but by the end of his travels, he has learned to appreciate the world around him. Partially wry and partially whimsical, the stories are little philosophical nuggets; for instance, when he longs for a blanket, snow begins to blanket the area around him, and when he complains about his bland dinner, the sea adds a dash of brine to hi ...more
The King and Sea: 21 Extremely Short Stories, by Heinz Janisch with illustrations by Wolf Erlbruch, is a very clever collection of stories with the chief goal of depicting the titular king to be a bit of a buffoon. With an Aesopian vibe, the stories - some no more than a healthy paragraph in length - deflate the king's ego. Accompanying the spare stories are Mr. Erlbruch's sparse illustrations, providing a mere dose of humor and characterization, perfectly proportioned for each fable. Readers ne ...more
I love the mix of collage cut-outs using patterned papers and crayon drawings in this collection of very short stories. A king tries to assert his power over a number of things, like rain, the sea, and a trumpet, but soon realizes that these things, among others, follow their own rules, not the king’s. Full of philosophical wonderings, the king does learn that his power is limited, and that’s okay. When reading the book to students, I wonder what they will take from the stories? The book will be ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This King and the Sea is ageless, timeless. Each page is an open book, a doorway through which to step beyond the ordinary.

The art is extraordinary both in its simplicity and its complexity...thus mirroring the feel of the text.

This is a book to follow one through childhood. The short stories will enlighten any adult who is willing to pause, to open, and, like the character, to take off his crown and place it on the sand.
Elizabeth K.
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Elizabeth by: NYPL Best Picture Books of 2015
Shelves: 2016-lucy
This was so nutty, I love it. It was like a series of little philosophical koans. Usually I don't have much patience when I feel like the hook of a children's book is something you have to be an adult to appreciate, but my five year old found many of them intriguing enough to really pause and think about. ...more
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Melle by: Publishers Weekly
This was amazing -- each two-page spread has a short, zen-like short story along with an illustration of the king getting a lesson in humility and or philosophy. I feel like this is the kind of book to give budding philosophers, Buddhists, questioners, and rulers. A lovely quiet-time book for children of all ages who are still learning to think and to see the world.
Homewood Public Library - Children's Dept.
Translated from an original German language story, international award winning and Austrian author Heinz Janisch gives 21 witty, cute, and mildly thought provoking tales that children and adults alike will enjoy. The illustrator, Wolf Erlbruch, is also an award winning author and illustrator. Increase your child's knowledge of world books by checking this one out from your local library! ...more
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not a children's storytime book, but an almost Zen-like contemplation of what it means to be a good person. Would make a good gift for someone starting a leadership role as a reminder to listen to others and appreciate what they have to offer. ...more
Thoughtful and thought-provoking vignettes of a king sizing up the sea, the sky, and the trees, and much more. What makes the king the king? What else is king? I could spend an afternoon lost in this book.
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This unusual book is deceptively simple in art/layout/text, but gives a lot of food for thought. Even a powerful king can't make creatures and natural elements obey him, and to his credit, the king learns and changes from his experiences. ...more
Donna Siebold
Dec 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Twenty-one single page stories tell a tale of a king and all he encounters. He learns how little his position matters to the sun, the bees, and the sea (among others). This book has adorable drawings and tells a lovely tale of how great and small we all are.
Dec 19, 2015 rated it liked it
This is definitely a picture book for adults, or at least for older children. It's very philosophical in nature, and will prompt a lot of discussion.

Compare with The Little Prince and the Zen stories by Jon J. Muth.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm not entirely sure this was made for children. It feels very much like a text you could use in a philosophy class. Quick little stories on each page and interesting artwork but not really for a child audience. ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A group of very short stories that together tell the tale of a king who learns a lot from the natural world around him. Very basic, but fitting, illustrations.
This would be a good book to discuss with children, I'm not sure that they would understand it on their own.
Edward Sullivan
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Twenty-one extremely short stories about a small king who goes out into the big world and learns the limits of his power. Translated from German. Great illustrations by Wolf Erlbruch.
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books, 2015
I LOVED this. A clear example that simple does not always equal easy or disposable. I do think the stories would go right over the heads of most of the picture book audience though
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Heinz Janisch is an Austrian author of children's books. ...more

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