Kathryn Lasky’s The Emperor’s Old Clothes

1787220Kate Brown penned this review.

Children’s author, Kathryn Lasky has finally asked and answered a question that was ignored since Hans Christian Andersen first presented the world with The Emperor’s New Clothes: Where did his old clothes go? With the help of David Catrow, an award-winning illustrator, Lasky has directed this tale at the world of 3- to 7-year-old children.

The story’s main and only real character is a farmer named Henry who, while walking home from the market, comes across various pieces of fancy clothing that have been tossed out of a recklessly driven carriage. He has just witnessed the spectacle of his emperor parading around naked. Of course, never having had the opportunity to own such lovely things, Henry dresses himself piece by piece as he finds them along the road, giving no thought to where they came from.

By the time he reaches his farm, he is fully dressed in the emperor’s old clothes and quite pleased with himself. However, it doesn’t take long for Henry to realize why farmers don’t dress the same way as courtiers, and he soon changes into clothes more appropriate for the barnyard, much to the relief of his animals.

Catrow’s watercolor illustrations complement each page, bringing life to the simpleton Henry. While the natural hues and pastel shades are soothing to the tender eyes of a child, the absurd caricatures are delightful, disproportionate parodies of reality, a combination sure to attract a child. The nudity of the emperor is tastefully presented, a large feather from a nearby citizen’s hat conveniently positioned to protect his dignity. Catrow uses clashing colours to add to the comic appearance of Henry the farmer in the emperor’s cast-away apparel.

A wonderful sequel to the original story, The Emperor’s Old Clothes is simply a delight! It is perfect gift material for little ones, and a glorious excuse to dig out the old story, making for a double feature.

Award-winning artist David Catrow is a featured illustrator for hundreds of newspapers and has illustrated over 30 children’s books.

(Harcourt, 2002)

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