In 1986, when the Polar Express won the Caldecott, a royally funny runner-up grabbed an Honor Medal. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, a story about a king who refuses to leave his bathtub and rule his kingdom, was written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by her husband Don Wood. The story is wonderfully imaginative, but most successful are the carefully illustrated spreads of wacky characters and detailed absurdities.
Over the course of the book, a full day passes, and every so often the Page of the castle cries the same phrase: “King Bidgood’s in the bathtub and he won’t get out! Oh, who knows what to do?” Various members of the court try telling the king it is time to do his duties, which include anything from battling to fishing, but the king insists on doing all these things in the tub. For many years, kids have loved the predictable nature of this story, and the repetition of the Page’s question is valuable especially for very young children. Additionally, because the bathtub is a place of imaginative play for many children, the king’s antics are highly amusing.
The illustrations draw the reader in with every page turn. Each illustration takes up an entire spread and plays with the use of color to reflect the time of day. At first, “when the sun came up,” the page is bright, the sky yellow outside the window and the royal court’s clothes lit by sunshine. The late afternoon spread is full of warm pink hues, while the evening spread is almost entirely shades of blue. Every page depicts the court of characters in incredible detail, down to their ostentatious neck ruffles. Their facial expressions are baffled, aghast, and always overly dramatic.
The real gem of this book is the bathtub pages. Looking down from above at the king and his ridiculousness, great attention has been given to making the tub appear to overflow with all the things that you would not usually expect to be in a tub. These too are colorful, elaborate and detailed. For example, the lunch in the tub is complete with a castle-shaped cake topped with a miniature bathtub.
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub is a perfect bedtime story from the past for kids who love to play in the tub. It is simultaneously funny and elaborate, topped off with impressive illustrations.