Rulers of the Playground
One morning, Jonah decided to become ruler of the playground.
Everyone agreed to obey his rules to play in King Jonah’s kingdom . . .
Everyone except for Lennox . . . because she wanted to rule the playground, too.
A gloriously rendered, hilariously deadpan tale of playground politics.
An Argument for Democracy
Jonah wants to rule the playground. And he’s a good ruler. Except when he’s not. The problem is that Lennox also wants to rule the playground. She’s also a good ruler. Except when she’s not. The rest of the children follow first one then the other as the two kingdoms grow larger and larger. An intense struggle for territory ensues, reminiscent of colonial pursuits such as the so-called “Scramble for Africa” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Eventually, when Jonah and Lennox realize that their friends have abandoned them, they must make a new plan to apologize and restore the playground to the people.
Kuefler’s illustrations are expressive and charming and portray a racially diverse group of children. Notably, both Jonah and Lennox wear royal clothing unlike the rest of the students. At times, the text is a touch heavy-handed (such as when Jonah and Lennox plan to “create a democracy”), but moralistic though the story is, it has a moral worth exploring. What complicates the seemingly simple message of the story further is the final page, which reveals that Augustine, another child, is now pursuing royal dreams of her own. Does the book suggest that there will always be a threat to democracy? Is the book about the ever-shifting nature of childhood friendships? I’d strongly recommend this book to those willing to take up in conversation with children not just the superficial message of the book, but the underlying themes in it.
Has potential to initiate conversations about politics and democracy.