King Duncan is terribly handsome, but a terrible king. His kingdom is in ruins, and when his subjects appeal for help, he only builds more tributes to his handsome face. His subjects are finally ready to stand up for themselves, and they have just the plan to get out of this hairy situation.

A mustache....because sometimes good looks alone just aren't enough.

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King Duncan is terribly handsome, but a terrible king. His kingdom is in ruins, and when his subjects appeal for help, he only builds more tributes to his handsome face. His subjects are finally ready to stand up for themselves, and they have just the plan to get out of this hairy situation.

A mustache....because sometimes good looks alone just aren't enough.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
King Duncan “spent every Royal Day admiring his Royal Reflection, and not doing much else. Which is why his kingdom was such a Royal Mess.” When his subjects revolt, King Duncan’s solution—yet another giant billboard of his royal visage, this one declaring, “I’m Great!”—forces them to use the graffitisti’s most potent weapon: the scribbled mustache. Duncan, naturally, is outraged, and his attempts to ferret out the culprit result in even more absurdity. Barnett’s (Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) gift for humor is as sharp as ever, and Cornell (The Trouble with Chickens) holds his own in scenes filled with visual gags. Cornell has a particular love of signage (the angry mob’s posters read, “Better Ladders for Potholes” and “Read Our Signs!”) and statuary (the king is memorialized conquering such menaces as a surprised puffer fish and an apathetic walrus), and the half-lidded eyes of his subjects telegraph their frustration with their ruler. Barnett’s light touch with the ending is just right, avoiding dreary moralizing. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
If you are old enough to appreciate irony, you are likely to enjoy this tale of Duncan, who the opening lines tell us, "was a terrible king, but he was terribly handsome." It's very clear what makes him such a dreadful ruler: he is so totally absorbed with his own good looks that he does nothing about the needs of his kingdom. Faced by all of his subjects demanding that he do something for them, Duncan's response is to put up a huge banner of his own face, labeled "I'm great." That night someone defaces it by drawing a huge mustache—and when Duncan puts up more signs showing his face and offering a reward to anyone who turns in the culprit, in no time, all these posters are defaced as well. Duncan turns his kingdom into a jail which means that the playgrounds and roads do get built. His subjects are all happy but Duncan doesn't find it much fun to be cut off from everyone else. Cornell's illustrations are exaggerated enough to carry the joke of the text; he is especially good at facial expressions, with Duncan foppishly preening and the townspeople clearly fed up. This book might be good light way to open up a discussion of how being totally self-absorbed is more likely to lead to isolation than admiration. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Duncan, a "terribly handsome" king, spends each day "admiring his Royal Reflection, and not doing much else." His image is everywhere. Tired of living in a kingdom that is falling apart, the people demand much-needed services. He responds with a huge banner bearing—you guessed it—his own image. The next day a mustache appears on the banner, then on all the "Wanted!" posters seeking the perpetrator, and, finally, on every statue and billboard in the realm. It turns out all of his subjects have contributed their artistic talents to this task, and the enraged king jails them all. When life "as the only free man in all the land" becomes lonely and made worse by the sounds of laughter emanating from the jail, Duncan relents, gives up his imperious haughtiness, and paints a mustache on his own face. The large cartoon illustrations, mostly spreads, are framed in gold with a peacock motif along the bottom. The brief, humorous text appears in scrolls superimposed on the paintings. Though some pictures are so dark that details are difficult to see from afar, careful viewing reveals many visual jokes. The palace contains hilarious portraits and statues, including the king as Centaur. Beleaguered servants carry a giant mirror next to the king when he's out walking, and funny billboards abound. Despite its sheer silliness, this royal romp of a story contains some subtle messages behind the hilarity.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
Kirkus Reviews

Barnett delivers a sweet slap to vanity.

This king is neither toady nor tyrant, but he just can't get enough of himself. He gazes into the mirror that one of his retainers totes by his side, smitten and remiss. For as he takes in the royal visage, the royal roads are crumbling and the royal playground has broken swings—his kingdom is a wreck of neglect. "Enough!" cry his subjects, but all the king offers is a giant billboard of his face. That night, a giant mustache is painted on the royal puss. Outraged, the king wants the culprit flung in jail. The wanted posters, of course, feature the king's face. More mustaches materialize. "So he slouched in the Royal Throne. 'Look at my wonderful face,' he said. 'Who could be doing this to me?' " Well, everyone. Cornell ushers the story forward with cinematic artwork, framed in elaborate medieval-like borders but paced sequentially like a comic book. As the town inadvertently re-creates itself—everybody admits their guilt, everybody must go to jail, which means a big expansion project for the prison, which results in a whole new village—there comes a bloodless revolution.

The king can't beat them, so he joins them, clueless until the end, and kids will giggle all the way.(Picture book. 6-8)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423116714
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 10/25/2011
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 178,225
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Mac Barnett
Mac Barnett ( is the author of several picture books, including Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World and Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem. He also writes the Brixton Brothers series of mysteries. Although he often neglects to shave, he has never worn a mustache.

Kevin Cornell ( spends his days manicuring a magnificent beard, pausing only occasionally to illustrate from his Philadelphia home. Both he and his mustache have illustrated several books, including The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button: A Graphic Novel and The Trouble With Chickens. You can visit him online at

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