Friday 5 June 2020

The Battle

The Battle by Ashling Kwok, illustrated by Cara King (EK Books) HB RRP $24.95 ISBN: 9781925820409

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

The first day of school can be a frightening experience. Thankfully, Edward has his armour to protect him from the dragons and ogres at knight school. But when he is asked by ‘a thunder of dragons’ to play hide and seek, Edward soon realises that his armour ‘always gets in the way’. Fear turns to fun, and Edward’s armour falls away. He sees that there really are no dragons and ogres in the playground, only children – ‘just like him’.

Told with an endearing simplicity, Ashling Kwok’s story will appeal to children aged four to nine who are anxious about starting kindergarten or moving to a new school. She cleverly envisions the self-preservation instinct as armour, transforming an abstract idea into a concrete concept that youngsters can more easily understand. As they see Edward shake off his mental shield by courageously seeking connection with others, young readers will be emboldened to overcome their own insecurities.

Cara King’s characterisation of the creatures is charming, adding to the subtle message that school is not a scary place. Colours pop from the spreads like fireworks, contrasting vividly with Edward’s grey armour in a stunning visual representation of the brightness of friendship versus the dullness of being alone. When Edward laughs away his armour, this warmth is carried through the pages with touches of red in a feather, the children’s cheeks, their jumpers, and a ball.

Gentle language and genial images join forces in The Battle to lead the readers to victory. In the process, youngsters discover that if they let down their guard, they have a chance to find real happiness.

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