Sunday, May 06, 2012

Facing Up to It: Mustache! by Mac Barnett

Duncan was a terrible king, but he was terribly handsome.

He spent every Royal Day admiring his Royal Reflection, and not doing much else.

Which is why his kingdom was such a Royal Mess. King Duncan didn't repair the roads. He built billboards instead.

King Duncan's kingdom is falling apart. There are potholes in the road big enough to swallow a knight in armor whole--including his charger. Swing sets are collapsing in the parks, and the sheep are forced to scale trees and graze on the thatched roofs of the town. But the more his disgruntled subjects grumble, the more billboards and monuments Duncan constructs, all featuring himself in various heroic poses.

And when his restive and progressively more disloyal subjects protest (waving signs which proclaim BETTER LADDERS FOR POTHOLES), King Duncan's remedy is to hang a mega-banner from the castle walls with his vainglorious visage and the motto I'M GREAT! Duncan may be a legend in his own mind, but to his subjects he's just another pretty political face.


The next morning, the King discovers that his giant mug on the banner has something new--a huge handlebar mustachio. The King declares that the errant artist must be jailed at once and orders multiple copies of his banner to be plastered to every possible vertical surface in the kingdom.

Done and done. Smug and smiling images of a mustache-less Duncan leer down from everywhere at his less-than-loyal proletariat.

But the next morning, King Duncan arises to find that his image has apparently been occupied by his people. A different mustache has sprouted on every single poster. Even his own Royal Advisor has been busy all night adding his adornment to King Duncan's upper lip. Duncan orders the mustache malefactors jailed, but still the graffiti grows daily. Finally, Duncan decides to try a tricky tactic. Plastering a benevolent smile on his face (the only likeness of himself in the kingdom without a mustache), the King assembles the populace and demands that the perpetrator reveal his identity.

"My gentle subjects," he said, "you have been playing a joke on me. And I have found the joke hilarious. So if the person who has been drawing mustaches on my picture would just raise his or her hand, we can all laugh and there will be no punishment."

Every hand in the crowd goes up. Aghast, King Duncan orders them all arrested. Alas, the kingdom's punitive prison facilities fall far short of the demand, so the King orders more and more commodious new jails constructed, until Duncan's kingdom is one huge walled prison. But instead of being miserable, Duncan's subjects seem to be enjoying the pristine new prisons. The roads are freshly paved--with no potholes. Their surroundings are freshly painted and problem-free. The formerly restive rebels are really rockin' and rollin' inside their new digs. And King Duncan finds himself all alone with his own reflection in the mirror in his palace outside the prison walls, with no one to admire his handsome and non-hirsute face. It's time to FACE up to reality and give the people what they want.

He got off his Royal Throne.
He stood in front of the Royal Mirror.

He reached for his Royal Paintbrush....

Mac Barnett's Mustache! (Hyperion, 2011) is a timely tonsorial tale which will tickle the fancy of young readers. A sort of variation on The Emperor's New Clothes theme, Barnett is aided in poking fun at the vanities of short-sighted leaders by Kevin Cornell's sly visual humor and lively illustrations. A fantastical soup-strainer story which will dust the reader's cookies!

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home