King Matthew the First
Król Maciuś Pierwszy
by Janusz Korczak
Well this IS children`s literature... though I would say it`s both for children and adults... adults, first and foremost! Yet that might be just my personal opinion.
It`s about a little boy named Matthew, the only son of a King. The King dies, so the orphan Prince must become the King. He does not know how a kingdom should be run; he would like to play and have fun like other children, but he can`t; he would dearly like his subjects and all people and especially children to be happy, yet... It appears no King is allowed to do as he wishes, because if he tries, he becomes a Tyrant. Any King must follow the advice of his Ministers, and the Ministers are grown-up men who don`t seem to understand what children want or need.
To make things worse, a war starts. Little Matthew is fed up with rules and ministers, he wishes to do something heroic, so he runs away to go for a soldier. That teaches him a lesson or two! But the war is won, after all, and the little King is back - just to find out the real trouble starts after the war.
The book is full of adventure: the little King fights in the war, then he goes to Africa and makes friends with a Cannibal King, then he lets children rule, so that adults might understand how it feels to be a dependent child... Many a boy or a girl would wish to be in his shoes. But King Matthew the First is not happy. And there is no happy ending to the book. Because, you see, it all ends the way it would end in the real world.
The book is written in Polish and well worth translating, although it has already been translated into many languages.