The King with Dirty Feet

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Sally Pomme Clayton (text), Rhiannon Sanderson (illus.), The King with Dirty Feet, Walker Books Australia, 1 May 2018, 32pp.,  $24.99 (hbk),  ISBN: 9781910959237

There’s something comforting and timeless about folktales; I love the pure simplicity of the storytelling, while the deeper meanings and lessons within the narrative are always quite profound. Folktales are not only a wonderful way to teach life lessons, but they are fabulously entertaining and a sure-fire way to ignite a love of stories in young children.

This enjoyable fable is based on a traditional Indian Folktale called The King and The Cobbler. A king lives in a beautiful palace in India. He has everything he ever wanted and is very happy – except for the fact that he hasn’t bathed in a year and has become quite pungent! So finally, the king has a very satisfying bath (complete with rubber duckies) and emerges squeaky clean. But, when he steps onto the ground his feet become dirty again. Outraged, the king demands that his poor servant Gabu cleans the ground for him, or else; ‘Zut!’. In other words, if Gabu doesn’t get the ground gleaming, he will literally lose his head!

Panicked, Gabu tries and fails at three different methods of cleaning the ground. First by sweeping, secondly, by washing the ground with water, and finally via the classic means of covering a dirty floor with a (very, very large) rug.

When nothing works, a wise man with a long white beard emerges from the crowd with a solution. He cuts a piece of the rug, sews in some laces, and much to the king’s delight, the very first pair of shoes are invented, ‘and people have been wearing shoes ever since’.

The story is complemented by beautiful traditional-style illustrations depicting scenes of the kingdom that children will pore over. There’s also humour in the story, and the picture of the king in the bathtub is particularly delightful.

This book would make a wonderful addition to a collection of folktales old and new.

Reviewed by Melinda Allan

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