Myra here.

I found these two books by chance in our library as I was browsing through the shelves looking for titles that would fit our current theme that highlights royalty, blue bloods, queens, princes, and the like. I’ve read a bit about David McKee’s artwork in most of the children’s literature textbooks I am using for my course, so I am intrigued to find these two highly interesting titles.

IMG_0631The King of Quizzical Island

Written by: Gordon Snell Illustrated by: David McKee
Published byWalker Books, 2009
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Unlike most Kings who are embroiled in the struggle for power and politics, conquests and glory, this King made for a refreshing change as he is more of a philosopher-scientist, intent on answering empirical questions being posed in his kingdom. The book began with a seemingly-innocent query made by the King himself, who was described to be most inquisitive:

“If I sail to the edge of the world I wonder what I’ll find?”

IMG_0632The artwork is done predominantly in black and white, except for the King as you can see in the above picture who is garbed in bright royal colors of orange and gold. Rather than being merely content with his own musings, the King took it upon himself to undertake this voyage himself.


His court, made up of Whispering Witches, the Wise Owl, an old Wizard, the Llama, Leopard, Lizard were predictably very alarmed by this intrepid decision. They were afraid that if the King indeed sail to the edge of the world, he would “fall off – and fall for ever.” The book documents his perilous journey across roaring waves, past a Jigsaw land where everything lay in pieces and fragments…


… down towards Vertical Land (“where everything stands on end”), and past the Sea of Dreadful Dreams (where “all things ghastly and ghoulish” rose out of the waters). What he found when he reached “the edge of the world” I shall leave for you friends to discover. This is perfect for little scientists and budding explorers who are determined to find answers to their many questions about the world. I also think that there are metaphorical layers to this book that would resonate even with adolescents or young adults who are struggling to find purpose in their lives.

The King of Quizzical Island Digs through the WorldIMG_0641

Written By: Gordon Snell Illustrated by: David McKee
Published by: Walker Books, 2011
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is the sequel to the first book that ended with another question: “Can you prove that the world is round?” as the quizzical owl asked. And so, the King once again, took it upon himself to answer this bold and bright question. Armed with nothing but a diamond blade, he started digging through the ground. His working supposition is that:

“…You’ll know that the world is round

And the fact can’t be denied,

When I’ve dug a tunnel right through it

And come out at the other side!”

IMG_0642Once again, his court of whimpering witches and wailing wizards (not to mention the llama, lizard, leopard and the Owl) were once again very skeptical and begged him to reconsider since this kind of undertaking has never ever been done before. But this is precisely the reason why the King insists on taking this journey. He will never rest until his many questions are answered.


And so, he dug past a Kingdom of Broken Bone, right through a Giant whose head was pressed to the ceiling lest the Underworld be drowned (very reminiscent of Atlas and the Sky)…


… digging through a “curious lair” where a Dragon and a Dinosaur were sharing a glass of wine. The King also dug right through sizzling flames and past a world where people walked upside-down.


How the story ends and whether the King answered the Owl’s question, I shall leave for you to discover. I truly enjoyed how ingeniously-crafted this book is. While I am not a huge fan of rhyming text, I liked how these books were presented alongside the mostly-black-and-white illustrations filled with tiny details. A perceptive and curious child can lose himself or herself in this ‘quizzical’ picturebook.



Reading Update: 15 and 16 of 25

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “Gordon Snell and David McKee’s Quizzical King – A 2-in-1 Special

  1. Fats Suela

    Love the illustrations on these books! =)


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