Sunday, 12 April 2009

Review of The King of the Copper Mountains, by Paul Biegel

One of the best children's books I have ever read (over and over again) is The King of the Copper Mountains, by Paul Biegel. This review would have had a rather sad ending, because it has been out of print for years. Happily, though, I've just discovered that Strident Publishing reprinted The King of the Copper Mountains last year, so many more children should be able to enjoy it.

The King of the Copper Mountains is Mansolain, who has ruled over them for well over a thousand years. Now, though, he is very old and very tired, and the Wonder Doctor tells his last servant, the faithful hare, that he will die soon unless a speeder-up is found for his heart. The Wonder Doctor sets off on a long journey to find the Golden Speedwell plant and make up a potion from it. Until he returns, the only thing that will keep Mansolain alive is a series of stories.

The book takes the form of fourteen chapters, one for each day of the doctor's journey, as each animal he meets on his way is sent to the Copper Mountains to tell the King their tale. The stories span comic turns, fantastic adventure and sad quests. The trials of the smallest creatures are given as much weight as the grander and scarier animals, including a lion and a three-headed dragon. Although each chapter can be read alone – making it perfect for bedtime stories – over the course of the book a mythology of Mansolain's realm is built up, as well as a little community within the castle at the foot of the Copper Mountains.

The King of the Copper Mountains is the first thing I would recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining book to read, or have read to them, that also contains a lot of food for thought. It is a funny, beautiful and haunting story.

1 comment:

Katherine Langrish said...

I'm delighted to hear this book is being reissued. It's wonderful! Always loved it, and so did my daughters - a fantastic read-aloud book, too.