The King With Six Friends by Jay Williams Children's Book Review
- Fairy Tale
- Overcoming Obstacles
- Helping Others
- Quest genre
The King With Six Friends, By Jay Williams (1968, Parents Magazine Press, Out of Print, ISBN 0819303429), is my husband's childhood favorite children's picture book. The story is an engaging adventure of the out-of-work King Zar and the friends he meets along the way. This book is cleverly written, with many humorous lines that adults will appreciate, and the message of friendship, loyalty, and leadership is appealing to all ages. This book has been reprinted in library binding form by Macmillan Publishing, but if you want the original title as it appears here, you will want to look to used booksellers.
At the beginning of the tale, we discover King Zar, an out-of-work king with no kingdom to rule. Through youth and inexperience he has lost his kingdom, his castle, and even his crown to a stronger king. The quest adventure is his story of regaining a kingdom and the right to rule with the help of his magical six friends, whom he meets along the way.
"Zar had twelve gold pieces, a suit of clothes, and a sword. So he set out to find work. The road was long and the world was wide. He went to many lands, but no one wanted to hire a king without a kingdom. He had never known what it was to be hungry or thirsty or tired before, but now he learned. Fortunately, as a king, Zar had already learned how to meet happiness or unhappiness with the same cheerful smile."
Zar sets upon his adventure, and helps six magical people, each in a predicament. These new friends decide to join him on his journey. His six friends are Edge, Kindle, Eryx, Furze, Agus and Dumble. For example, Edge, a sharp-nosed man who can turn himself into an axe, has become stuck in a log. Zar frees him, and Edge shows his gratitude by joining the expedition and using his skills to help on the way.
At length, Zar and his friends come upon a fine kingdom ruled by Invictus XV, The Ever Glorious, who despite his magnificent name, has a nail-biting problem. The proud Invictus has a beautiful daughter he wishes to marry to a king, but has been unable to find a king who is both unmarried and able to prove himself worthy of the impossible tasks Invictus sets to him.
Zar introduces himself to Invictus, proposing that he will be a good match for the princess.
"King Invictus stroked his beard. 'That may be so,' he said. 'However, you must admit there are problems. A king with no kingdom is not much of a match. And my daughter is very rich.'
'When I marry her, I will be rich too,' Zar pointed out."
Published in 1968, this story follows a traditional folktale quest format. The illustrations by Imero Gobbato are exquisite, detailed watercolor renderings in subdued hues of blue, grey, sepia and gold, but more subtle than what many readers have come to expect from modern illustrations, which tend to use more eye-popping colors.
The King with Six Friends includes many traditional fairy tale elements, including a princess whose main purpose in life is to be married off. This story contains no strong female characters, but don't be disappointed. Williams' story Petronella (Originally published in 1973, and republished in 2000 by Moon Mountain Publishing) features a strong princess who is a match for the Paper Bag Princess, so keep that in mind for your next read.
This story includes many fantasy elements that will keep young children attentive and engaged, but the central theme of leadership makes it unique. King Zar is not perfect. He has lost his kingdom and finds himself a penniless beggar. But he sets out on a journey to better himself despite his mistakes, and this is a lesson anyone can appreciate. Although the lesson of this story is unmistakable, it doesn't read as a morality tale. I give this children's story a great big thumbs up!
This story is lengthy, and though well-paced, not appropriate for reading aloud to a preschool group audience. This book, with its emphasis on leadership, friendship, cooperation, and its problem-solution format, is quite appropriate for reading to a first or second grade classroom.
Other Books by Jay Williams
- The Cookie Tree (1973, Parents Magazine Press)
- Petronella (1974, Parents Magazine Press)
Other Books By Jay Williams
Lesson Planning Ideas
The King With Six Friends is cited in author Joan M. Wolf's book, The Beanstalk and Beyond: Developing Critical Thinking Through Fairy Tales. This book includes suggestions for using fairy tales in critical thinking and creative writing within lesson plans.
Additional Links for Educators Featuring Fairy Tales
Group Reading with This Book
This story is lengthy, and though well-paced, not appropriate for reading aloud to group audience younger than first or second grade. This book, with its emphasis on leadership, friendship, cooperation, and its problem-solution format, is quite appropriate for reading to a first or second grade classroom.
This book will be an appropriate late-picture book to help you bridge into chapter book reading. I would categorize this book as a late first or early second grade read-alone story.
As a story hour selection, I feel that this book will be most successfully presented to a Kindergarten and up age group. Otherwise, if presenting to a preschool aged group, the story might be presented in an abridged form.
More Children's Picture Book Recommendations
Below are links to over 40 reviews of my favorite children's picture books here on HubPages.
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett · A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams · Babies by Gyo Fujikawa · Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin and Eric Carle · Charley Harper's ABCs by Charlie Harper · Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons · Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes · Daughter of a King by Rachel Ann Nunes · Excuse Me! By Lisa Kopelke · Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat · Harry and The Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach · Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson · I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll · I'd Choose You by John Trent · Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback · King of Kings by Susan Hill · Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis and David Soman · Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes · Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney · Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney · Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle · No David! by David Shannon · Olivia by Ian Falconer · Out of the Ocean by Debra Frasier · Snowballs by Lois Ehlert · So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury · Souperchicken by Mary Jane and Herm Auch · The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone · The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle · The King With Six Friends by Jay Williams · The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman · The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges · The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell · The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy · The Red Shoes a Fairy Tale by Gloria Fowler and Sun Young Yoo · The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats · Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel · Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White · Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak · Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits