king burue book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

King Burue Changes the Rules is a unique fable-like story written by eight year old, Natalija Bajlo. Having watched people ridicule each other for their differences, she wanted to write a story that encourages people to look past those outward differences to the things that really matter. Set in the Kingdom of Kalos, she introduces King Burue, the goose in charge of all other geese in the land. Being a ruler is a challenging job, but thankfully this kingdom only has four simple rules.

1. Tell the truth
2. Be kind
3. Share
4. A goose can only marry a goose

When the good King Burue falls in love with a parrot, he wonders how can he follow his heart and the fourth rule at the same time? It seems he cannot. So he sets out on a journey in which he meets other animals outside the goose kingdom who apparently have dealt with the same problem. He meets an eagle paired with a pelican, a porcupine with a rabbit, and a frog with a salamander. All are happy with their odd pairings. The king realizes that rules are a “way to remind us of the important things about how to treat one another.” On the other hand, “some rules are made without having a lot of information and don’t make sense at all.” In the end the king decides that a goose marrying a goose is one such rule that doesn’t make sense at all, and the last rule is crossed out and changed to “Follow Your Heart”.

In general, I did not care for this book or its overall message. The way it was written, it seems the original topic was friendship. People can care about whomever they want regardless of whether or not they are “like them”. However, by making the primary theme marriage, this book felt like it was pushing some kind of subtle agenda. It didn’t feel like a subject chosen by an eight year old, but perhaps heavily influenced by one or more adults. With marriage as the subject, all these mismatched creatures were married to each other (rather than friends). I’m not sure if you can even crossbreed a rabbit and a porcupine. The implications of suggesting all these random creatures marry whom they like is not realistic in the animal kingdom. Of course, it was merely an allegory for people, but I’m not really sure what the author was suggesting people should do when it comes to marriage. She never does come out and say what her imagery is supposed to represent, although the way it is written, one might infer that she is talking about race, nationality, sexual orientation or disability.

Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “…they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” she uses the word ‘color’ in her story to represent all perceived differences between the characters. Like I said, it seems this story was originally written about friendship. The first three rules of the kingdom are those that would apply to basic interactions between people and friends. The topic of marriage doesn’t quite fit, because marriage is a different type of relationship…more permanent and legally binding than just friendship. It is a loaded topic with many politically correct implications that I found misplaced in a picture book targeting young children. Discussions on marriage choices are valuable ones, but this book seemed to try to sneak in complicated variables that young one are not going to be ready to process. However, since the author never directly says what she is really trying to say about marriage, it leaves it open for interpretation.

I did think this book would make an interesting piece for biographical literary criticism based on the variables that led to such a young author publishing on a rather mature topic.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bajlo Innovative Enterprises. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.