This is my first children’s picture book. It tells a story about war and power in a funny and lighthearted manner. The little king starts a war to become famous, but things don’t work out quite the way he planned…
War, especially the first World War, plays an important part in the self-image of many Australians. Most of the children’s books on the subject have a sentimental and nostalgic tone, and talk of bravery, remembrance and sacrifice. The Australian government’s Department of Veterans Affairs publishes large amounts of expensively produced materials which are sent to schools around the country. There are many publications in Australia that portray a conventional, conservative view of war, but not many that promote nonviolence and pacifism.
I created a book that addresses with fun and humour some of the unpleasant aspects of war, such as the sacrifice of conscript soldiers for the gains of the powerful and the propaganda machine that drives wars. The story about the little king deals with the bullying of powerful cowards and the possibilities ordinary people have to stop conflict.
The book was inspired in part by the German Revolution of 1918/19 that stopped the war. Beginning with a mutiny in the German navy, a strike wave swept over the country. The Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland. The people managed to stop the “Great War” that the ruling German elites wanted to continue.
Another important influence were my own experiences as a soldier in the West German army during the time of the Cold War in the late 80s. All our training scenarios were preparing us for a bloody fight against the Soviet bloc, which included East Germany. In the end, peaceful protests in East Germany brought down the regime without a shot being fired. These days, the former enemies from East and West live peacefully in a re-unified Germany.
But all political background aside, I mainly attempted to entertain – it was fun to draw the antics of the little king, a likeable brat in search of glory, and I hope it is as much fun to read about him!