I didn’t get it. I read it to my kids they did’t get it. I know it is written on an AR 5.8, but even with that, we didn’t get it. I had to google it to see what the deeper meaning of the story was and all I found is that it is a teaching tale of two princes and how one found his heart’s desire in a fish and the other in a horse. Which, I did get, but didn’t really get more than that. The details in the story seem to wander and meander around to no point and not in an entertaining way. I never felt a connection to the characters, so their side stories didn’t appeal to me. It is possible that I would have viewed it more favorably as a short story rather than as a really long picture book, but its hard to say. I guess I feel like if forced, I could write an essay explaining all the small lessons, and moral guidance, but as a children’s book, I don’t want to dig so deep or spend hours at bed time trying to convince my children that the story made sense. Ideally the book should have been shorter and more streamlined, or longer and fleshed out.
It starts out with an enlightened king encouraging his subjects to make new discoveries to promote quality of life, wealth and knowledge. He has two sons, one is an expert in strange devises and one is a dreamer. The king puts out a call to have something new made, and an ironsmith makes a fish out of metal than can fly and swim and carry things. A woodworker makes a magic horse that interprets the desire of the rider and carries the rider toward it. The king suddenly becomes cruel and finding this a waste of time has the woodworker tied up.
The dreaming Prince Tambal rides the horse on many adventures, which kind of disjoints the story and makes it like a fairy tale about Tambal falling in love and trying to persuade a king to let him marry his daughter, and in turn having to trick the intended suitor instead. Along the way there are poisonous fruits, turning into a beast, and eventually returning home to prove that, “Those who want fish can achieve much through fish, and those who do not know their heart’s desire may first have to hear the story of the wooden horse.” Huh? Exactly.