The story of a new baby disrupting a household is given a new spin by the New York Times best-selling Sally Lloyd-Jones. This book is lavishly illustrated by David Roberts – readers might be more used to seeing Roberts’ name as the author and illustrator of the hugely successful Dirty Bertie series.
His Royal Tinyness looks stunning, with a muted, 1970s colour palette and incredible attention to the small things (Persian rugs, cushions and clothes are all given fabulous detail). There’s lots to love here, especially how the big sister in the story recreates her new baby brother’s annoying antics through her own drawings – which my five and three year old readers thought was really funny.
However, pace-wise, there’s too much going on in the text – I found the language of the story a bit too clever for the audience. For example, in one scene, at the baby’s first birthday party, he throws down his rattle, and the text tells us he throws down ‘His Orb’ and ‘His Sceptre,’ which will go over the heads of most young readers. Although pausing to unpick words and meaning is part of the joy of picture books, this kind of humour is a special challenge, not something that could be quickly explained. This is a shame, as the book would be a real winner if the language was pared back. Additionally, there’s a tongue-in-cheek charm in using words like ‘beautifulest’, and having a main character who is ‘a Princess with long, flowing wondrous hair’, but given recent debates about how heavily gendered our children’s toys and media can be, some parents will probably be less keen on this.
All in all, His Royal Tinyness is worth having in the house for David Roberts’ funny and clever illustrations alone; I especially loved the dad depicted in bell-bottoms and polo neck and the mum in a fabulous kaftan. A nice idea, and a gorgeous book to look at, but one for older picture book readers who have parents with enough time to unpick the meanings of certain references.
His Royal Tinyness was published by Walker Books on 7th September 2017.