If you think a picture book with just a few words in it sounds boring, think again! Petro and the Flea King is a fantastic graphic novel created by Kenneth Lamug. It has a couple of short sections that explain the work, but overall, the book is about 160 pages of black and white cartoon-style drawings. They tell a story that is based on Filipino folktales. Every picture gives a glimpse into the life and culture of this special nation.
Petro is a lazy little boy who breaks a pot and disobeys his grandmother by going into town for another one. There, he runs into the Flea King and his accomplices who are causing all sorts of trouble. After Petro’s second pot is broken, he gets angry. While he’s trying to figure out what he can do to defeat the Flea King, a friendly bird visits. As they talk about using flea spray, Petro starts thinking about where he could get some. Then he unexpectedly winds up involved in several other crazy adventures that are fun to read about.
Looking at this book is a great way to spend some free time! Petro and the characters he meets are silly and fun. The few words at the beginning of each chapter set up what’s going to happen next. In every picture, various emotions play out on the characters’ faces, and they’re so strong that they practically jump off the pages, which makes the story easy to understand.
I shared the book with my family at home, and everyone loved it. The more we looked at the pictures and compared them, we noticed small details that filled in the story for us even more. Eventually, we were adlibbing what was happening in the book to each other, and each of us brought up different aspects of the story. Before we knew it, we were laughing out loud together. It was so much fun!
If it looks like the pictures have some Spanish influences, they do. Spain occupied the Philippines from 1521 until 1898. Some of the words are in Tagalog, one of the dialects spoken in the Philippines, and there’s even a short glossary at the end of the book that defines each word. The pictures in the story don’t really need words to convey their meaning. though.
At the beginning of the book, Ms. Jean Marie Munson, founder of Plot Twist Publishing, talks about how she wishes more books like this one would be available about the Philippines and her people so she could read books that feel familiar to her. She also recommends this book for students who can’t or don’t want to read yet because it doesn’t rely on words to tell the story. This book is perfect for all of those people, and I think it’s great for anyone who just wants to laugh and be happy with a story for a little while. It is a unique reading experience because every time you look at the pictures, you’re probably going to notice some other new twist that you didn’t see earlier. Before I read this book, I knew nothing about the Philippines and its folklore, so it also is a terrific way for anyone to learn something new!