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#Mebookofthemonth July 2018 - Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler

Updated: Jul 25, 2018

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

“So many things were bubbling up in culture and society that centered around our ability and willingness to coexist.”

- Joseph Kuefler on "Rulers of the Playground"

In the thick of political goings-on in Ukraine, the Middle East and America, in addition to the Syrian refugee crisis, Joseph Kuefler wanted to explore ideas of ownership and dominance, to explore what it means to coexist.

On a much less political level, themes of coexistence and dominance were also alive and well in Kuefler’s personal life. He was expecting a brand new addition to the family, which he knew would affect the power dynamics at home, as well. The characters in the book—Jonah, Lennox and Augustine—were named after Kuefler’s own children, whose real-life personalities very much inspired those of the characters in the book.

What is it about?

To kids, the playground can be a land of mystical adventures and explorations, with every twist and turn leading them to different corners of their self-created imaginary world. But for the kids at this playground, their play area is a land divided by two kingdoms vying for playground domination.

Reminiscent of 18th and 19th century style—with elaborate gowns and crowns—but set in the modern times, this exquisite picture book is about the rift between two sides of the playground, each governed by self-proclaimed rulers King Jonah and Queen Lennox. At first, the other kids agree to play along. However, they soon grow tired of listening to their preposterous rules and decide to take matters into their own hands. Before long, King Jonah and Queen Lennox realise that being rulers of the playground may not be that much fun after all.

We love it because…

Kuefler’s illustrations are gorgeous and attention-grabbing for both parents and kids alike. The book’s artwork is inspired by 18th and 19th century paintings, with its gorgeous dusky colour palette and echoes of the French and American revolutions in terms of style and aesthetics.

It’s playground politics told in a lighthearted, humorous manner with a diverse array of characters and a sense of relatability that makes even grown-ups see themselves in these kids (or at least, take a trip down memory lane and recall the kids who reminded them of King Jonah or Queen Lennox). All in all, a lovely story about sharing, generosity, kindness and friendship.

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