________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 5. . . .October 2, 2015


The King of Keji.

Jan L. Coates. Art by Patsy MacKinnon.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2015.
32 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-77108-281-5.

Subject Heading:
Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (N.S.)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Rebecca King.

*** /4



Saturday morning, they left right after breakfast. They put up the tent first, then Gramps and Jacob set off on a hike.

“Don’t forget your camera,” Gramps said “the King of Keji needs superior treasure-hunting skills.”

“What about a shovel?” Jacob asked.

“It’s not buried treasure. It’s hidden treasure,” Gramps said.

“Like a scavenger hunt?” Jacob asked.

Gramps nodded. “For things that are valuable and rare. Now, what would a king use to go hiking?”

“That big stick thingy.”

“A sceptre.”

Jacob picked up a piece of driftwood. “How about this?”

“I like it!” Gramps said.

“No jewels, but it’s just my size. Take my picture?” Jacob asked.



The King of Keji is a warm and pleasant story of a weekend camping trip taken by a grandfather and grandson to Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.

     Jacob complains to Gramps that his friend/brother Ben always wins at king of the castle, leaving him to be the dirty rascal. Gramps reminisces that he was once a king at Kejimkujik National Park. Jacob also wants to be king, and so a weekend trip to “Keji” is planned.

     Arriving on a Saturday morning, they pitch their tent and set out for a woodland hike. First Gramps suggests and Jacob finds a sceptre. They discuss what treasures a king would have, and, throughout their two days, they find treasures in nature that they collect in photographs, Click.

     Ancient trees with emerald leaves, deer with amber eyes, diamonds sparkling on the lake, loons like ebony and ivory, frogs of jade, pearls of dripping melted marshmallows are among the treasures the two find. Their activities include hiking, canoeing, a guided hike with a Mi’kmaw interpreter of the ancient petroglyphs, a trip to Keji Seaside, and fighting mosquitoes by a campfire. All of these contribute to a special time together in one of Gramps’ favourite places.

     Gramps suggests that Jacob see if he can make himself a crown while he packs up. Using pieces of twine, Jacob braids himself a headband which he decorates with oak leaves, red berries, grasses, and a small crystal stuck on with pine sap. Sitting on a boulder with his back against a tree, Jacob says, “Ta-da! Like my throne?”

Gramps responds, “I now pronounce you the King of Keji!”


     In The King of Keji, Jan Coates and Patsy MacKinnon have created a colourful travel log for a popular Nova Scotia destination.

     The story of Gramps and Jacob’s camping trip shows a warm relationship between the two, as well as Gramps’ pleasure in sharing his love of nature and this particular spot with his grandson. The only conflict in the story is on the first page as Jacob complains about Ben, his friend or brother we don’t know, always winning at king of the castle. This conflict is not mentioned again. There is no talk about how to deal with bullies or how to cope with your feelings when you always lose. The story is about the trip to that special place.

     MacKinnon’s watercolour illustrations are very effective in creating the feel, the atmosphere of Kejimkujik. Her palette of purples, blues, and greens evokes the deep shade of the trees and woods. It is equally effective in presenting the blues and purples of the rocks at the seashore section of the trip. Perhaps her figure drawings are not as effective, as the boy, Jacob, though nicely proportioned and pleasant, does not appear to be same age in all of the illustrations. Also, the “snapshot” of the deer looked to me to be a jackelope, a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. It was only by reading the text that I determined they were deer.

     On the whole, The King of Keji is a strong entry in the local-interest market of picture books. The story and illustrations will appeal to those wishing to remember a special experience in Nova Scotia or entice others to visit that wonderful place, Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.


Rebecca King is retired after 25 years of service as a Library Support Specialist with the Halifax Regional School Board.

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.

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