Last year, I requested a review copy of The Story of God with Us, the debut release from Wolfbane Books. The picture book was gorgeously-designed, with a powerful narrative threading through the pages. Not to mention that the title was terrific.
Like The Story of God with Us, The Forgotten King is a treasure among picture books.
The Bible verse connection is included at the end of the book— and it is my longtime FAVORITE Bible verse. That, in itself, is a strong commendation in its favor.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Rev. 21:3-4
Marketed as a parable, “a short story to help engage our imaginations with what God is doing in His world…” (what a great definition!),
This book does a fantastic job of relaying the Gospel in simple, easy-to-understand language. As I’ve mentioned before, there were a lot of phrases I heard, growing up in the church, that never really had meaning for me. This is one of those books that really contextualizes the message of Jesus.
If the book weren’t written in rhyme, I’d recommend it as an evangelistic narrative for nonChristian adults. As it is, I think the book is a wonderful allegory, even for adults— who are already Christians. It’s a beautiful reminder of the meaning behind the truths we confess.
What I Liked
The book sketches the story of mankind, in a Medieval European setting, beginning and ending with communion with God. (Plus the incredibly beautiful message of God dwelling among His people!) The book’s message was well-presented and I liked that the theme of enchantment was used as a metaphor for sin. It reminded me of The Silver Chair (with a Dr. Seuss spin, thanks to the rhymes). The piercing arrow is a moment of awakening, which merits being returned to.
The authors’ word choice was clever, particularly in terms of descriptive words and adjectives. The wizard, who has a “long scraggly beard,” is said to “lurk.” Cursed, the people spend their time “bickering, snickering and mad.” (Listen to that assonance!) In contrast, the Prince is “valiant,” and rides “like the wind,” while also “taking turns with great care.” This description conveys His precision, as well as His strength.
The design of this book is stellar. The dusty green, clothbound cover with gold foil lettering is truly exquisite, and resembles the kind of old-fashioned book you’d expect to see in a fairytale. It’s just such a beautiful book to add to any collection.
Like the book’s cover design/printing, the illustrations are so well-suited to the genre. Crotts’ artwork is delightfully distinctive, with dark lines employed to add texture (I don’t know the art terminology for that). I also really liked his economy of color, with individual pages featuring their own limited palette that contribute to the story’s narrative (most of the King/Prince’s illustrations include dark purple, the color of royalty. The evil wizard’s presence is accompanied by a darker, deeper shade of green– which is such an appropriate color for an evil wizard). The use of silhouettes/shadows on the setting backdrops is pretty cool, too!
Plus, there’s a fun i-Spyish feature with animals. Many of the village scenes include a tucked away little squirrel, rabbit or bird (I won’t spoil what a creature I see skedaddling away from the evil wizard).
As mentioned above, the setting is clearly European. That definitely fits with the style and genre of the book. At the same time, I would have liked to see more diversity among the characters, even if that would have been a minor deviation from the European storybook feel. This is a book that readers would really benefit from “seeing themselves” in, in my opinion. With that said, I want to also acknowledge that Crotts’ particular style of illustration leaves ambiguity in terms of race/ethnicity (but most characters’ features looked white, in my opinion).
This is a book I’d highly recommend, for children and adults. It can be read aloud to little ones, or given to an independent reader. In terms of content and design, it is truly beautiful.