Bagheera’s Castle, written and illustrated by Chicago master-in-waiting JM not only cracks open a fresh category (book reviews) on WMKAS, but manages to both embrace and mock the whimsical, all’s-well-that-ends-well children’s book genre in one peculiar story. JM skillfully merges two plots – one the more expected monarchial power struggle and one deliciously metaphorical – as Bagheera the Guinea Pig King tasks his dragon and hedgehog pet/guards to search the land and bring him a carrot. JM puts the henchmen in harm’s way all in the name of the almighty carrot – a not so subtle nod to the foolish “quests” that best characterized a time when an enormous wooden horse befuddled the tightest of security.
In the end, Bagheera gets his carrot, but only after his dragon and hedgehog defeat an opposing king (looking more like the sasquatch). The last image is a satisfied Bagheera -- carrot jutting out like a victory cigar -- surveying his kingdom. What tastes sweeter, JM challenges, the unmitigated power or the simple pleasure? Bagheera it appears, can have his carrot cake, and eat it, too.