HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Royal Raven
Author and Illustrator: Hans Wilhelm
Publisher: Scholastic, 1996
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wilhelm, Hans. The Royal Raven (published in 1996 by Scholastic). Crawford is a raven who, from the minute he pops out of the egg, wants to be special. Therefore, he is disgruntled with his ordinary appearance and wishes that his plain raven’s feathers could be colorful and more exotic. After making several funny, futile attempts to change, he finally gets his wish when he finds an old woman with magical powers who transforms his black feathers into a magnificent golden plumage with “some color, some flash, some razzle dazzle,” and he becomes a spectacular creature with bright feathers. He is thrilled until he attracts the wrong kind of attention. After a brief spell of glory as the fancy of a princess, he is all too soon relegated to being chained in a golden cage in an obscure part of her garden. He then pines only for freedom. Is there anything that he can do to change his situation?
This story by author and illustrator Hans Wilhelm, who was born in Bremen, Germany, and has written and illustrated more than one hundred books for children, including the popular Bunny Trouble series, well illustrates the importance of learning to be content with such things as we have. The holographic gold foil and sparkling splashes of blazing color will grab kids’ attention, but the double-page watercolor art is great even where there is no gold. One scene shows the raven’s different efforts to improve his appearance by such absurd means as stilt walking, wearing grapes on his head, and sporting a false nose. The dust jacket proclaims that this book hails “the freedom to be yourself” as its message. Children will easily understand the lesson about the pitfalls of seeking attention. As an extra treat, Wilhelm hides a tiny ladybug on each spread.