by Bil Lepp
Illustrated by David T. Wenzel
Only the King of Little Things stands between King Normous and his goal of conquering the world. But little things can wield great power.
In a long ago world of vast kingdoms lives a king who happily reigns over all things small. He has all he needs and doesn't want for more. Not so King Normous. He wants to be Ruler of All the World. He gathers his armies and soon he has erased every empire and raided every realm.
Or has he?
Normous is enraged to learn that the King of Little Things still rules over his tiny kingdom. He sends his army to defeat this upstart, but he finds he cannot outfight or outwit a king who holds sway over the small things of the world.
After all, it is the small things that keep the big things going.
The tale moves briskly, with high drama and gentle humor, and allows readers to find the moral naturally. Wenzel's watercolor illustrations are in perfect harmony with the text, in both detail and tone. Endpapers depict an assortment of small things that can be found within the illustrations, encouraging further examination. Adults and children who read this delightful and imaginative book together will find lots to talk about. - Kirkus
Itâ€™s hard to miss the point of this fable about the kindly King of Little Things (who had â€œeverything he needed, and didnâ€™t want for moreâ€) and his victimization by the ambitious and obnoxious King Normous. Small, Lepp clearly feels, is beautiful. Yet the story doesnâ€™t pall. Lepp revels in exploring the many ways the King of Little Thingsâ€™ insignificant but loyal subjects serve him, offering help in an early skirmish (â€œthe soldiers found mealworms in their bread, chiggers in their underpants, and fungus between their toesâ€), then comforting him with crumbs and seeds after he is imprisoned. When the King of Little Things decides heâ€™s had enough, he sends out a plea for all little things to strike: â€œBoats listed. Words twisted. Lights unlit. Scarves unknit. And every little thing, everywhere, refused to work.â€ Wenzel delivers Mad magazineâ€“style spreads of medieval feasts, battles, capes, and crowns. Brainy wordplay abounds, and a scavenger hunt is included, too. Lepp affirms living simply without sounding smarmy, and Wenzel offers a king whose underpants fall off. Whatâ€™s not to like? Ages 4â€“8. - Publishers Weekly
Bil Lepp remembers well the inspiration for his story, â€œThe King of Little Things.â€
Eight years ago, he was playing with his son, Noah, upstairs in their home. Noah, now 14, suggested, â€œLetâ€™s play kingdoms.â€ Lepp was handed a few small toys â€” a marble and a jack â€” while his son claimed the larger ones, including a Tonka truck. Noah told his father, â€œYou can be king of little things.â€ And a story was born.
The PEN American Center, the largest branch of the worldwide human rights and literary organization, announced Wednesday that Lepp has received the PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing for his childrenâ€™s book, â€œThe King of Little Things.â€ According to a statement released Wednesday by PEN, the award is given to a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book published in 2013.
Lepp receives a $5,000 prize and will join fellow PEN literary winners at a ceremony in New York City on Sept. 29.
In the statement, PEN President Peter Godwin said, â€œCelebrating the written word is an essential part of defending it and it is through PENâ€™s literary awards that we continue to honor some of the most exceptional books and bodies of work that free expression makes possible.â€
Although the South Charleston resident has authored a variety of short story collections and a parenting book, â€œThe King of Little Thingsâ€ is Leppâ€™s first childrenâ€™s book. He said the story was adapted from a longer version that he originally meant to be told as an oral story for his full-time storytelling career.
â€œI didnâ€™t write it to be a book, I wrote it to tell a story,â€ said Lepp, a five-time winner of the Liarâ€™s Contest at West Virginiaâ€™s Vandalia Gathering. â€œWhen I wrote it, it was probably 2,000 words long.â€
Another storyteller, childrenâ€™s author Carmen Agra Deedy, heard Lepp tell the story. After hearing it, she came to him with an idea.
â€œShe heard me tell the oral version of the story, [and] she said that would be a great childrenâ€™s book,â€ he said.
Deedy had experience with Peachtree Publishers in Atlanta, and she helped to shepherd the book through the submission process. She also served as the bookâ€™s primary editor, helping Lepp get his 2,000-word story down to a more suitable size for children. The final version is less than 800 words.
Although varying in length, both versions tell the story of the King of Little Things, who happily reigns over all things small â€” from candles to paper clips to macaroni. But when King Normous, from a nearby kingdom, decides to become king of the whole world, the King of Little Things â€” and his subjects â€” must find a way to outsmart Normous and keep their little kingdom safe.
â€œOriginally, I just thought it was a neat idea that there was a king, a king of little things. I suppose it became pretty evident to me that I was making a message that little things are important,â€ Lepp said. â€œEverything has value and deserves respect.
â€œPart of being mindful of the little things is being polite, just saying please and thank you. [And] if you take care of the little things, then the big things fall into place, as well,â€ he said.
Lepp â€” who lives in South Charleston with his wife, Paula, daughter Ellie and son Noah â€” said the book took eight years from start to finish, but the timeline sped up after illustrator David Wenzel signed on to the project. Wenzel is best known for his visualization of J.R.R. Tolkeinâ€™s â€œThe Hobbitâ€ in a graphic novel.
â€œI didnâ€™t know who he was,â€ Lepp said of Wenzel. â€œOnce I started looking him up, I was sort of astounded that someone with his clout would want to do it, just by the fact that I assume he gets lots of offers to illustrate books. That he liked my story enough to want to do it that was very exciting. He just did a fantastic job.â€
The book is in its second printing after its release last year, with 12,000 copies in print.
According to Niki Knippenberg, associate publicist for Peachtree Publishing, the book has been licensed for translation in Spanish, Catalan and Korean and for apps with Reading Rainbow.
â€œWe are thrilled for Bil Lepp and so proud of his work,â€ she said. â€œâ€˜The King of Little Thingsâ€™ is a special book to all of us at Peachtree. In addition to being rich with clever wordplay and atmospheric illustrations, itâ€™s a story of little things making a big difference â€” and that theme is really at the heart of what drives us as a publisher.â€
PEN notified Lepp last week of his award.
â€œI was hoping it would be a good fit and, it turns out, it was. I was astounded,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™d like to publish another childrenâ€™s book and Iâ€™m hoping this award helps me do that.â€- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140731/GZ01/14...