Described by Gillian Engberg for Booklist as a “winning Dutch import for parents looking for an original tale with a gay slant,” Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland’s King & King is a picture book that tells the story of a prince whose mother (the queen) is tired of ruling her kingdom and tries to arrange for her son to marry a princess so that he may assume the throne--only to find herself with a son-in-law when the prince falls in love with (and marries) another prince. “The text is brief and lighthearted,” writes Engberg, “and it presents the gay relationship with matter-of-fact ease. But it’s the illustrations that really shine. Whimsical, textured collages mix beautiful papers, fabrics, and bright paint in scenes that show the bossy queen, the wildly imagined town, the eclectic princesses, the wedding, and finally, a kiss between the two starry-eyed princes.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly , some parents who have encountered the book have been outraged. King & King was the subject of a federal lawsuit filed in Massachusetts in 2006, wherein parents of a second grader claimed that their child’s exposure to the book in a public elementary school classroom constituted sexual education without parental notification--a violation of their civil rights and state law. The case was dismissed by a judge who wrote in his decision that “diversity is a hallmark of our nation.”
More recently King & King is still making headlines --albeit on a smaller scale. Last month Eileen and Jeff Issa attempted to have the book taken out of circulation at the Lower Macungie Library right here in Pennsylvania. They were unsuccessful. “I just want kids to enjoy their innocence and their time of growing up,” said Jeff Issa, according to local paper the Morning Call. “Let them be kids and not worry about homosexuality, race, religion.”
Issa’s wife apparently checked out King & King from the Lower Macungie Library and read it to her two-year-old son without having examined it closely for subject matter. “I saw them at the altar and I said, ‘This can't be what I'm thinking.’” It would seem that Ms. Issa wishes the library had protected her from herself.
If you would like to intentionally check out a copy of King & King , there are currently 14 copies available at various Free Library of Philadelphia locations.