The ballad of Henry Hoplingsea by Julia Hubery
Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Little Hare, 2016. ISBN 9781760121259
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Humour. Aspirations. Medieval times. Love and friendship. When farmer Henry proposes marriage to his girlfriend, Carmelita, she declines his offer with tears in her eyes. She has never imagined herself as a farmer's wife, but longs to be a princess, waited on hand and foot, with long flowing tresses and a brave heroic knight who will fight dragons for her.
Undeterred, Henry goes off in the dead of night to join a Knight School, where he will learn all the attributes Carmelita craves.
Told in verse, each pair of lines begs the reader to predict the rhyming word, encouraging them to be more involved in the story of Henry trying to win Carmelita's hand. Predicting the rhyming word will cause lots of fun as will the story itself, along with recognising the allusions to fairy tales which children will elicit in the illustrations as well as the text.
The wonderfully energetic illustrations will have readers looking for the scatter of things on each page, laughing at the view of Henry on his majestic steed, his cow, with his rooster tagging along as his squire.
The humour behind the farmer on his quest begs the readers to look further at books presenting a view of Medieval life and perhaps discuss the role of men and women in our society, and Carmelita's aspirations could be considered when looking at the reality behind what she wishes for. The old adage, 'be careful what you wish for' may be a handy dictum for discussion.