- The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee
Rhee, Helena Ku The Paper Kingdom; illus. by Pascal Campion. Random House, 2020 [36p] Library ed. ISBN 978-0-525-64462-0 $20.99 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-525-64461-3 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-525-64463-7 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R 4-7 yrs
Daniel's mom and dad are night janitors, and when child care falls through one evening, Daniel goes off to work with them. As his parents tidy, mop, and wash, they describe the building as the Paper Kingdom, ruled by the Paper King and Queen and staffed by friendly but messy dragons (who are cannily staying out of sight during cleaning), and they tell Daniel maybe someday he can rule the Paper Kingdom. Where Hesse's Night Job (BCCB 9/18) was pure childhood idealism, this account of nighttime work is matter-of-factly open about the disparities of experience between those who make the mess and those who clean it up (Daniel is even indignant on his parents' behalf, but they're more pragmatic); the Paper Kingdom framing adds a softening touch without recasting hard work as play. Campion's digital illustrations have a painterly gouache flavor; while the dragon joke doesn't play out as well in the art as it does in the text, the figures have dignity as well as liveliness, and the tidied rooms and shiny reflectiveness of the mopped floors testify to Daniel's parents' impact. This may speak to many kids who don't usually see their parents' work in picture books, and it could also prompt youngsters to think about the kinds of unseen labor that keep their houses, schools, and lives on track.