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donnaodonnellfigurski.com - THE KING'S TASTER

The King's Taster
Written by Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson
Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 0060753722
Ages: 4 to 8

Review and Lessons Plans by Donna O'Donnell Figurski      

There are so many jobs in the world. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, mail carriers, firefighters and police officers are most common. Ask any six year old child and chances are one of these jobs will pop up. So will nurses, football players, and astronauts. I've never heard of any child, though, aspiring to become the king's taster. Most have never heard of this desirable profession, I'm sure. I know I never had until I read The King's Taster written by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.

Being the king's taster sounds enticing, though, doesn't it? Everyone knows the king eats the best food - cheese pies and rose puddings and syllabub, whatever that is  - all fit for a king. So being the king's taster seems like a yummy kind of job. Who wouldn't want to get paid to eat?

Max, the chef's dog, was the king's taster and he loved his job. Max ate the best food in the kingdom. But there is a drawback to every good job and the downside to Max's job was life threatening. Max tasted the king's food before the king ate it to be sure that it was not poisoned.

When the new “boy” king was enthroned, something went wrong … terribly wrong! The new king refused to eat the chef's masterpieces. Of course, Max didn't mind; he still ate his share and more. But what if his owner, the chef, lost his job? In desperation Max and the chef searched the world for new recipes - pizza, tacos, French fries. No king could resist those - could he? He could … and he did until his secret was discovered. Peek into the king's crown.

This review can also be seen on: SmartWriters .
FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“There is this dog named, Max,” said Danae.

“He lives in a castle,” said Daisy.

“Max is the chef's dog,” explained Abby.

Lucy nodded, “But, he was the king's taster,” she announced.

“If I were the king's taster, I would love my life,” said Diego with a grin.

Brayden raised his eyebrows. He didn't look convinced. But, Max makes sure that the king's food is not poisoned,” he said.

Mikaela agreed. “I wouldn't like to be the one trying the food, either,” she said and scrunched up her face.

“I would not taste that food,” said Danae. “Because if I die, that would not be good.”

Mark nodded, too. “I wouldn't want to be the king's taster,” he said indignantly.

Diego seemed to reconsider.

“But, Max loves to eat the king's meals,” said Brayden.

“I'd like to eat the leftovers,” said Mark.

“Max is lucky to have leftovers,” said Abby.

“The chef was a good cook,” said Juliana.

“But, I would not want to be the king's chef,” announced Mark.

“Yeah, the king always throws his food,” said Daisy.

“How rude of the king to throw out good food,” said Brayden shaking his head in disgust.

“That is just not right,” said Danae.

“I think the king was mean,” said Abby.

“I say the king was nasty, “ungood,” terrible, and very, very, very bad,” said Lucy.

“Spoiled!” Callie added.

The CRITers all seemed to agree. (for once)

“He was a meany. He was a brat and he was selfish,” said Juliana.

“Who does he think he is?” asked Brayden. “He's only a small, little five year-old.”

“He was a kid,” explained Diego. “So you would expect that from him.”

“NO WAY!” yelled Juliana. “I wouldn't want to have a king like that!”

“The poor cook traveled all around the world,” said Brayden.

“He went to France,” said Caden.

“To get new recipes …” Juliana added.

“ … for the king,” interrupted Abby.

“The chef was trying hard to please the king,” said Tala.

“The cook made French fries and pizza and chili tacos,” said Daisy.

“Tacos! Ole!” yelled Callie

“But, the king would not eat the food,” said Caden. “He picked and poked it.”

“Who does not like fries?” asked Tala incredulously.

“I noticed candy in the king's crown,” said Lucy in explanation. “At night the king ate candy.”

“The king was busted,” said Daisy.

“Yeah, he got caught,” said Brayden rather smugly.

“He would only eat candy,” exclaimed Tala.

Daisy pondered a moment as if thinking about eating all that candy. Then she said, “If I were the king, I would eat all the food that the cook made for me.”

“I would eat everything on my plate,” said Lucy.

“The chef was a good cook,” Juliana said again.

“Well, I would enjoy whatever the cook gave me … except for the boar's head, said Callie with a giggle. The CRITers laughed. I think they all agreed. (one more time)


Strange Jobs - Guess What I Do: Language Arts/Social Studies

There are certainly some strange jobs in this world. Being the king's taster is just one of them. Have you ever heard of a tosher? A tosher is a person who scavenges in the sewers for lost treasures. I wouldn't mind finding a lost treasure, but it sure sounds like messy, dirty work. Definitely not for me! How about a knocker-up? He is a human alarm clock. With a long pole in hand he goes from house to house waking up the sleepy occupants. I'd never be up on time. I would be the sleepy occupant I was supposed to wake up. Nix that job. Maybe a gum buster would be the right job for you. If you like to de-stick gum from sidewalks and street benches, then it would be perfect. Not perfect for me. Then there is the dog food tester? Hmmm … tasting dog food. No thanks. I'd prefer Max's job! In the following game, Strange Jobs - Guess What I Do! your students can design their own jobs. They can make them as crazy and as outrageous as they wish.

Children may work in pairs or small groups to make up a job - something totally unfamiliar.
  • (Ex.: garuffler, sprantzer, oomager)
Then they decide what that person does for his or her job.
  • Ex.:
    • A garuffler climbs trees to rescue misplaced snails.
    • A sprantzer is a rubber band sorter.
    • An oomager works in a zoo taking care of baby hedgehogs.
Next the team can write three clues about their new job.
  • Ex.:
    • A garuffler is a good climber.
    • A garuffler does not mind slime.
    • A garuffler likes to eat escargot.
After the children have completed this activity, they can meet in large group to share their clues. The rest of the class tries to guess what the job is. Additional questions may be necessary.

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be: Language Arts/Social Studies

All children dream of what they want to be when they grow up. I wanted to be a flight attendant, a guitar player, a singer, and a world traveler. I was too short to be a flight attendant. (Yes, back in the day there were restrictions.) I own a guitar. Is that close enough? I did sing karaoke once - scr-e-e-ch. And I've traveled to France, Portugal, Germany, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, England, Scotland, and Wales. I've trekked through Spain and Portugal and Italy and I even spent one afternoon in Tangier on the north coast of Africa. But I haven't fulfilled my goal. I haven't yet been to Central America or the Galapagos Islands. I need to go to the Caribbean and go down-under to see Australia. I haven't been to South America or Asia or North Pole. Though at -35˚, brrrrr, maybe I won't be visiting Santa anytime soon. There are thousands of jobs in this world. Let your kids discover them.

Have the children brainstorm as many types of jobs that they can think of.
Make a list on chart paper.
  • Ex.:
    • doctor    teacher    professor    football player
    • realtor    scientist  hairdresser  party planner
Have each child choose the perfect job - just right for him or her.
Then have them research their job choices and the tools of the trade -- what one must do or need to perform the job.
  • Ex.:
    • Firefighter: helmet, water hose, fire truck
    • Teacher: pencils, paper, books
    • Hairdresser: blow dryer, hair dye, scissors
    • Doctor: white coat, stethoscope
    • Realtor:   house listings, newspaper classifieds
Have children write a paragraph highlighting the features of their chosen profession.
Set aside an afternoon for Career Day.
Children can dress to depict their chosen profession. They can also use props.
Gather children together and have them take turns reading their paragraphs to the class.

(Although I examined these websites and found them to be very helpful, please use them at your own discretion.)

Ways for Kids to Make Money, Jobs, Ideas, Tips
BLS Career Information Home Page: What Do You Like?


Jobs for Kids: A Smart Kid's Q & A Guide written by Jeanne Kiefer, illustrated by Carol Nicklaus
Curious George Takes a Job written & illustrated by H. A. Rey
DK Readers: Jobs People Do -- A Day in a Life of a Teacher written by Linda Hayward (Additional books in this series include musicians, doctors, fire fighters, builders, and police officers.)
Marshall Cavendish series: Tools We Use - Librarians written by Dana Meachen Rau (Additional books in this series include artists, builders, chefs, doctors, and emergency medical technicians.)
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All contents copyright (c) 2002. Donna O'Donnell Figurski.
No content may be copied or reproduced in any way without the express permission of the creator.
Clip Art courtesy of GraphicGarden.com

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