King Of The Swamp by Catherine Emmett & Ben Mantle

King Of The Swamp is a wonderfully original rhyming story full of humour and heart. It includes an important environmental message and we loved the colourful, surprise twist. Main character, McDarkly, is a likeable, engaging character whose swampy home improvement plans are seriously disrupted when the King and the Princess come riding by with an alternative plan for his beloved swamp…

The Story: McDarkly would like to transform his stinky swamp. But the King decides it would be a great place to build a roller skate park. The King gives McDarkly ten days to make his swamp beautiful or he will come back and build. McDarkly works hard cultivating orchids but then disaster strikes – the swamp is invaded by grubs who eat all the plants. McDarkly is devastated by the destruction but when the King and the Princess arrive the next day, McDarkly gets a pleasant surprise. 

The king is pompous and arrogant but luckily his daughter is far more ecologically minded and very excited to hear about McDarkly’s orchids and his plans for his swampy home. A mutual appreciation for gardening and nature stimulates a friendship between the gentle swamp monster and the independently minded Princess.

We really warmed to McDarkly, a quiet swamp monster, who drinks tea and tends to his plants but still has big dreams for his swamp. We sympathised with his devastation when the king tells him about his skate park plans but were relieved when the Princess, who has an A to Z of plants and an array of scientific equipment, convinces him that she can learn from McDarkly.

Catherine Emmett’s fun to read rhyming text is complemented by Ben Mantle’s fabulous illustrations. They are full of wonderful details – we love the way that he captures so many of McDarkly’s different emotions in his expressions.

The ecological theme of the story makes this a great book to use to stimulate early years’ classroom discussions about conservation, habitat and how we can care for our environment. It’s also a lovely story to demonstrate friendship and can lead children to discuss the mutual interests that they share with friends, just like McDarkly and the Princess.

King of The Swamp is a story of determination and hope which shows that even in a stinky swamp you can find beauty. It would be great to see McDarkly in another book 🙂

Age Range: 3 +

Author: Catherine Emmett / Illustrator: Ben Mantle

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