Tiny Tyrant

Tiny TyrantSummary: Welcome to Portocristo, its clear skies, sandy beaches, bustling streets–and its spoiled rotten, six-year-old king.

The little despot is grouchy, whiny, outrageous…everything you’d hate to find in a boy on a throne. But here in Portocristo, anything he says goes, no matter how bizarre or harebrained. Sit back and watch young King Ethelbert swap his country’s kids for Ethelbert robots, test his bodyguard’s mettle by putting a price on his own head, shrink the world down to his size, bring a dinosaur back from the past…

And that’s only a tiny taste of the zaniness ahead.

Trondheim’s deliciously inventive writing, coupled with artwork evoking the classic, wacky styles of Mr. Magoo and Pink Panther, ensure an experience as memorable as kangaroos bouncing on pogo-sticks.
Tiny Tyrant, by Lewis Trondheim and Fabrice Parme 5.5

This is probably the first time that I’ve been bored by a Trondheim book. While I haven’t read all of his works, I was incredibly impressed with his ‘A.L.I.E.E.N.’ book as well as his ‘Lapinot’ series – which were all excellent reads. It is quite conceivable that there are duds elsewhere in his formidable bibliography, but I had yet to encounter them.

However, ‘Tiny Tyrant’ (which was originally published in French as a series called ‘Le Roi Catastrophe’) left me almost indifferent.

I say “indifferent” because I like what Trondheim was trying to do (which is to give ultimate power to a selfish child in order to teach children valuable life lessons) and am quite pleased with Parme’s art (which is a clean, spacious cartoon style that nonetheless doesn’t lack in detail). It’s just that, for some reason, I wasn’t amused by the end result.

It’s totally conceivable, of course, that something was lost in translation: ‘Tiny Tyrant’ is actually relatively (for a kids’ book) heavy on dialogue and even introduces characters who are verbose and well-spoken. So it’s not impossible that the flavour got lost somewhere along the line; French and English are different languages to start with, but the interpretation may not have been accurate either.

I would actually be curious to find out how this plays with kids. I’m obviously not the book’s target audience, so perhaps there’s just something I’m not getting, some frame of mind I’m not in that would be beneficial. I mean, I can imagine being amused by King Ethelbert’s irrational behaviour at some earlier point in my life, but I can’t say for sure. Having said that, I’m still rather young at heart – so age may not be the issue.

Well, until I hear accounts of how much children love this book, I will tentatively recommend it to younger audiences. But not adult ones. It’s an innocuous read for youngsters and I can easily make a recommendation on that basis alone, but I really have no idea what kind of mileage it would get. As for me, I’m glad to know of ‘Tiny Tyrant’, but I don’t plan on revisiting his outrageous adventures anytime soon.

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