• The Hub

    News, Notes, Talk

    Happy coronation week! Here’s an unforgivable children’s book about King Charles.

    Janet Manley

    May 5, 2023, 9:32am

    When we were but children in a distant former colony, we had a set of cardboard coronation crowns upholstered poorly in imitation velvet so we could play kings and queens. The Queen was on our money, and her portrait hung in our primary school. Now we are on the eve of the next coronation, and the monarchy is running the merch machine overtime and again pointing the laser beam at impressionable young minds.

    Article continues below

    For whatever reason, the Little People, Big Dreams children’s book series, which publishes extremely simplified hagiographies for young readers, has issued an edition for King Charles. The book sold over 15,000 copies in the last week of April, pushing it to number one in sales in the UK.

    Now, I know that we adults like to buy children books to which they are completely indifferent—it’s our right as parents—but 15,000 copies is a lot. That’s a lot of grandmothers disobeying their daughter-in-law’s request to please stop with the Charles and Camilla stuff.

    Other titles in the Little People, Big Dreams series include Rosa Parks (“No!” she said on the bus, seemingly spontaneously one day), Harriet Tubman, and Amelia Earhart, whose story ends with her flying on and on “never to return” (my kids had no questions about this). Generally, there is something subversive and inspiring about the people Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara chooses to immortalize (RuPaul! David Bowie!), which raises the question, what “big dreams” did Prince Charles have as the lifelong successor to his mother’s empire and the £1 billion Duchy of Cornwall?

    Online grabs of the book don’t tell us much, as the page depicting a smiling baby Charles notes that “he would one day be king.” A very homey spread indeed, what with the butlers and nannies surrounding his frilly bassinet.

    Article continues below

    Little People Big Dreams King Charles wedding spread

    Later in the book, it is time for Charles to “find a wife to share his royal duties with”! Lucky Lady Diana, who looked like a fairy-tale princess, and definitely wasn’t edging down a path of tragedy and hurt as the Royal Womb. Big dreams!

    page from Little People Big Dreams

    Even if I wasn’t invigorated by the former colonies of the world writing to King Charles III the week of his coronation to demand an apology, financial reparations, and return of stolen artifacts, I would hate this.

    The story of Charles in a nutshell is a sad childhood, decades of waiting around to be king—the man is 74, an age when he should comfortably have retired to growing tatties in a box—a dead ex-wife, estranged sons, and generations of damage inflicted on the “people of the Empire” under the royal scepter, at the same time as the UK cinches closed its immigration pathways to said empire. I’m not sure how that will fit into a four-color print run, though.

    Article continues below

    Yes, the man is an environmentalist and at some point learned some Welsh, but the notion of proles paying to read a bogus story about the ~dream~ of the reign of King Charles III feels very sitting in front of the telly in a sad cardboard hat while someone else steels their spine against the weight of millions of dollars of stolen jewels.

  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.