HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Anna and the King of Siam
Author: Margaret Landon
Illustrator: Margaret Ayer
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, reprinted in 1999
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages: independent reading level 9 up but suitable for anyone.
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Landon, Margaret. Anna and the King of Siam (originally published in 1943 by John Day Company; the version Anna and the King for young readers adapted by Stephanie Spinner published in 2000 by Harper Collins Children’s Books, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022). Before reading this book, we had read Anna Leonowens’s own account of her time in Siam, from 1862 to 1867, entitled The English Governess and the Siamese Court, published in 1870. It was fascinating reading and I gave it a good rating. Many years later Margaret Landon discovered Mrs. Leonowens’s writings, researched Anna’s life, and wrote a somewhat fictionalized account, which became a best seller and was used as the basis for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I.
Landon rounded off some of the rough edges in Mrs. Leonowen’s original, and the musical rounds off the edges even further. According to the books, King Mongkhut was much more capricious, haughty, and stubborn than Yul Brynner ever portrayed him (and Brynner made him capricious, haughty, and stubborn enough!). This would be a good book to include in a study about southeast Asian history, especially because it shows the influence that this English teacher had on the young prince Chulalongkorn who became king of Siam (Thailand) after his father’s death and put into practice many of the enlightened principles that he learned from His governess.