Petro and the Flea King by Kenneth Kit Lamug was not at all what I was expecting. It’s an illustrated story without dialog or narration. The reader infers the story based on the pictures, facial expressions, and section headings.
One day, something flies out of the sky. From the picture it looks like a bug jumps on the meteor and grows people-sized, but he might have already been big and got other powers by touching it. The bug–I assume it’s the flea king–bites someone. The next section is about Petro being a bratty boy. He is lazy, hurts a bird, and ruins his grandmother’s kitchen. He grows remorseful and decides to use his savings to buy his grandmother replacements at the market. In section three, Petro goes to the market and has a run in with the flea king. He soon finds out that a lot of people have had problems with the flea king, too. In section four, Petro goes fishing because a bird suggests he should. He is eventually swallowed by a whale. He makes some friends and finds a way to escape. In section five, he’s on an island trying to get bug spray from a witch doctor. He’s bit by a snake and is sent to find a giant. Section six finds Petro in a giant world where everything is bigger than him. A robot helps him defeat a giant bird. In section seven, Petro finds the giant and the bug spray but is captured and put in a cage. Somehow, there’s a giant spider. They fight, then become friends. They run away and escape the giant. Does Petro get to go home? Does the bug spray work on the flea king? Will he get a hug from his grandma? You’ll have to check out section eight to find out.
Did that synopsis confuse you? That’s because that’s exactly how I felt “reading” this book. The illustrations are amazing. Sometimes they fit the whole page. Other times they take up sections like a graphic novel. It’s easy to follow the order of the pictures. They very clearly tell a story. However, sometimes the story gets a bit muddled. For example, the bird suggests that Petro use bug spray to kill the flea king, then hands him a fishing pole. What does a fishing pole have to do with anything? He finds his way from location to location purely by mistake. He kills a bird, a worm crawls out and grows into a plant stalk into the sky. The story is fantastical and whimsical, but extremely confusing.
Petro makes a lot of friends that we never see again. He makes it out of the whale with a wizard and a monkey. By the time he lands in the next setting, they’ve disappeared. Later, he says goodbye to the robot when he climbs the stalk. The robot traveled all over the giant-land with him. There didn’t seem to be any reason they should split up.
The introduction talks about the story’s Philippine influence. It seems this type of whimsical adventure is common among Philippine fantasy fiction. I didn’t find any editing mistakes, largely due to the lack of words in the book. Since I enjoyed the challenge of deciphering a book based on pictures alone, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I complained about the storyline, but ultimately it made me laugh. I’d recommend this book to anyone open to the challenge of “reading” pictures. I wouldn’t suggest this to anyone lacking an imagination.
Source: Online Book Club