The Lying King
By Alex Beard
Green Leaf Book Group Press; Hardcover, $17.95, available this Tuesday, September 4
Fine artist, conservationist, and author Alex Beard began writing and illustrating books for children as a way to share lessons about human nature using the animals he’s come to know through his extensive travels in Africa and abroad.
Beard created the Tales from the Watering Hole series, in which he brings the African landscape to life with vibrant illustrations that “bypass mere naturalism to evoke the creatures’ emotional states and personalities,” said Publishers Weekly, while underlining key messages about communication, creativity, overcoming fears, and personal responsibility.
The latest in the series is The Lying King, a timeless story that is very relevant in our current climate, about a warthog who wants to be the king of the jungle and lies his way to the throne.
“There once was a king who liked to tell lies,” the book opens. “Before he was king he lied to feel big, a runt who wanted to be a huge pig…Now firm and in power his goals took a turn. The king lied to steal what he didn’t earn.”
Beard has a unique style that has been called “lush, invigorating” by the New York Times Book Review, which illuminates real world truths for children of all ages as the warthog lies his way to the top. More emboldened with each new lie, the king fails to notice the impact his falsehoods have on the animals he is meant to serve. Will they stand up to him? Can the Truth eventually catch up with the king?
The Lying King, with a nod to Aesop and Kipling, is a funny and pointed parable that has lessons for everyone about the importance of being honest, fair, and authentic.
Beard grew up in New York and was taught the value of public service and the arts. His father, Sam Beard, worked for Senator Bobby Kennedy and dedicated his life to helping others, working alongside leaders of the Civil Rights movement and founding the country’s most prestigious public service award, the Jefferson Awards, with Jackie Onassis and Senator Robert Taft.
The work of Alex Beard’s father informed much of how he came to look at the world, developing a strong sense of responsibility from an early age.
Alex’s artistic side came from his mother, Patricia Beard, an author and magazine editor, and his uncle, celebrated photographer Peter Beard. They instilled in him a love of art, culture, and fashion. Alex grew up surrounded by icons of the Pop art world such as Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, and Mick Jagger. His exposure to leaders in both the political and artistic worlds made a lasting impression.
Beard draws on these early influences to create a whimsical work of art with a socially relevant, vital message for these times, while entertaining readers with a funny and engaging story about a very rude pig.
Here is a letter Alex Beard wrote to his readers:
When I was a child, I was taught that one of the worst things you could do was to lie. My grandfather told me repeatedly that the most important asset I had was my reputation, which was best tended and maintained by telling the truth. It was important to be thought of as trustworthy. The motto of my elementary school was “Honor et Veritas” (Honor and Truth) qualities that were drilled into me as the foundations for good sportsmanship and articulated as “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”
In learning about the history of America and how I should aspire to be as an American, I particularly remember the story of George Washington and the cherry tree, and how my little boy’s mind made the correlation between his telling the truth and him becoming the first President. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that the very promise of America as it was taught to me from the earliest age was derived from the idea of truthfulness in itself, from the truisms implicit in our inalienable rights, to our dogged advocacy for justice and equality over deceit and despotism.
The moral compass of this philosophy has served me extremely well. Erring on the side of honesty in the little things has added up to a kind of clarity when it comes to the big things. Moreover, I think that most of us think something similar, because isn’t that what has made us great together as a people? Our shared hope and understanding is that in the end, the truth will always prevail. Further, I believe we share a desire to teach our children the same, and if you don’t have children yourself, that others would do so with their kids.
But how do you approach the subject of lying at a time when the truth is under siege?
The Lying King is my answer to that question.
I hope it rings true.
AUTHOR APPEARANCE: Alex Beard will be appearing at Books are Magic on Sunday October 28th at 11am. Here is the event information: