BOOK BLOG: Catherine Emmett/Ben Mantle

King of the Swamp: a gorgeous story about looking after nature!


“McDarkly lives quietly all on his own, growing orchids in his dank swamp, until one day his peace is disturbed by an arrogant king who wants to turn the swamp into a roller-skate park. McDarkly has ten days to prove that the swamp isn’t damp and dark, but an enchanted world. Can he do it, or will he risk losing his home forever?”

King of the Swamp tells the story of McDarkly, a gorgeous (if a bit scary looking) creature who lives in the swamp, minding his own business until the king and his motley crew turn up to take over the swamp and turn it into something unnecessary. The king gives McDarkly an ultimatum: prove the swamp isn’t a dark, dingy, waste of space or he will take it over and build over it. McDarkly makes it his mission to prove that the swamp is a beautiful place and that we NEED nature in all its glory! 

You ALL know I love a picture book about being kind to the environment and I love that more books are being published to make this an accessible topic for children. This is such an important topic and I know it is one that teachers like to do with children of all ages. This one does the topic such a great justice. I love that it was set somewhere different: we get lots of stories set in beaches and forests, but never swamps, so this was a gorgeous change for me. 

I really liked McDarkly as a character. I think we tend to think of swamp creatures as scary and a bit intimidating, but he’s absolutely gorgeous. He wants to show the world how gorgeous his swamp is and that it deserves to exist (and not be turned into a stupid rollerskating rink, or anything like that!). I love that you see his emotions through this book – he’s so sad when the king tells him he’s got 10 days, but as he comes up with a plan you see his emotions change. The pride he has in himself at the end when he realises he has saved the swamp made me smile so much!

I think the illustrations by Ben Mantle are SO BLOODY BRILLIANTLY done. I ADORE the colour palette of this book – the darkness of the swamp in juxtaposition of the bright colours and the light of the end of the book is such a brilliant thing that you can talk about with children. How colour reflects mood. I just think the illustrations are so well done. I would LOVE to know how to draw McDarkly! 

This would be the PERFECT book to go alongside any kind of environmental topic that classes are doing! I can’t wait to use it in school and share it with the children. Knowing the author is a Geordie makes me SO SO happy because we can talk about how the author is from the same place as our children are (we SO RARELY get to talk about this)!!

A massive thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster, for sending me a copy of this book! I know it will be well loved in school and I can’t wait to share with the children! 

Can you recommend me any other environmental books that are set in less conventional settings?
Can you recommend me any other Geordie authors of kids books?

I’d love your thoughts! Speak to me in the comments, or on twitter! I’m always up for a bit of book talk!

S x 

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