The King’s Equal
by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Vladimir Vagin, published 1992
“You will become ruler when I die,” the old king said, “for that is the ancient law that cannot be changed. But you will not wear my crown until the day you marry a woman who is your equal in beauty and intelligence and wealth.”
From time to time, a contemporary children’s book reads as if it were a classic fairy tale that has been around forever. Certainly, that’s what I felt reading this book, though I can find no source for the story other than the author’s imagination. The story, however, has all the classical elements of a great fairy tale: an impoverished girl, tending her goats, who outsmarts a conceited prince, and in the end, rules happily ever after.
I didn’t realize till I finished this children’s book that it was written by the author of Bridge to Terabithia, a moving book for middle school readers. The back flap of this book indicates Paterson wrote this as a platform for the Russian illustrator, which explains the elaborate and very beautifully done Russian-styled illustrations.
The best part of this children’s book is watching the simple yet profound way that the heroine, Rosamund, with the help of her enchanted wolf friend, proves herself equal to the prince. I won’t give it away, but it is immensely satisfying and clever.
A lovely read-aloud book, or good for independent readers, though the text is perhaps at least 3rd grade level.