________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 18 . . . . April 27, 2007


Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs.

Charis Cotter.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
120 pp., pbk. & cl., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (cl.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-061-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-062-7 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Child kings and rulers-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Child queens-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Myra Junyk.

***½ /4


When Lhamo was four years old, the monks decided he was old enough to make the long journey from Amdo to Lhasa, where he would be formally installed as the fourteenth Dalai Lama. It was a long, difficult journey by caravan over poor roads that crossed rivers, mountains, and wide, lonely plains. Lhamo rode inside a special royal palanquin with yellow curtains accompanied by his brother Lobsang, who was eight. Every so often drivers leading the mules had to stop when fights broke out between the two boys inside the litter. Then their mother would be summoned to put her foot down. She would open the curtains and as likely as not find Lhamo grinning smugly and Lobsang crying. Although Lhamo was much smaller, he usually had the upper hand because Lobsang was too kind-hearted to beat up his annoying little brother. Like most little boys, Lhamo took great pleasure in tormenting his sibling.

After three months, the caravan finally reached Lhasa in the fall of 1939, to be greeted by thousands of joyful Tibetans welcoming their new Dalai Lama to the city. The little boy was captivated by his warm reception and the outpouring of love from his people. He felt he was coming home.

Charis Cotter begins this interesting and fact-filled nonfiction book by asking her young readers, “What would it be like to be a king or a queen, to live in a palace, to rule a country – while you were still a kid?” The answers she provides are as diverse as the young kings and queens she portrays!

     Cotter has chosen five young monarchs from various historical time periods. What they all share is the fact that they ruled at a very early age. King Tutankhamun of Egypt was her oldest “kid ruler.” He became king at age nine. What little we know about him comes from his tomb which was discovered by archaeologist Howard Carter almost 3000 years after he died! This child king was relatively unknown to ancient Egyptians since he ruled for only 10 years. However, the discovery of his tomb in 1922 has made him the most famous pharaoh of them all!

     Cotter’s youngest ruler, Mary Queen of Scots, became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old! She spent the first five years of her life hiding from enemies in England, including King Henry VIII, who wanted to kill her. Mary was betrothed to a French prince at age five and became Queen of France at age 15. Unfortunately, her husband died soon after their marriage, and she found herself facing her English enemies once again. Ultimately, she would be killed by them.

     The only other female in Cotter’s book is Queen Christina of Sweden who lived a very different life. She was the only child of King Gustavus Adolphus in the 17th century. Her father had wanted a boy so badly that he raised Christina as if she were a boy for the first five years of her life! Ultimately, this very strong-willed woman ruled Sweden for only 10 years because, having decided the monarchy was not for her, she abdicated!

     Cotter also discusses two “kid rulers” of the 20th century! In 1908, a tiny young boy, Henry Puyi, became the Emperor of China in the mysterious Forbidden City. Around him, the world was changing, and when China became a republic, Puyi was forced to give up his title as “Emperor.”  Even though he had every privilege, he was basically a prisoner for most of his life!

     Cotter’s final ruler, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, is still alive today! Named as the 14th Dalai Lama at age four, he grew up in the isolated Potala Palace with more than 1,000 rooms and 10,000 altars. He lived a life of solitude and study until age 15 when he became the official ruler of Tibet – just as the country was invaded by China. He has lived in exile for most of his life!

     The book is laid out in an organized fashion. Each chapter stands on its own. This feature would make it accessible for students doing research on a particular monarch. There are many colourful illustrations, maps and photographs. There are also numerous interesting sidebars which reveal what life was like during the period of time for these young monarchs. Queen Christina’s section has three sidebars: “Don’t Drink the Water” (what was safe to drink at the time?), “Girl? Or Boy? (Christina’s upbringing as a tomboy) and, “The Divine Right of Kings” (rights of kings and their impact on Christina’s final decision to abdicate).

     As you can see, these child rulers may have lived lives filled with riches and glory, but they also lived lives full of isolation and intrigue! Cotter’s narrative style is engaging and full of intriguing detail. However, the prose might be challenging for some readers. Many political terms are used which might not be familiar to younger readers. A glossary of terms would have been helpful in this book about “Kids who rule!”

Highly Recommended.

Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.