King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak

A timeless book about what children can be



King Matt the First
By Janusz Korczak
Translated by Richard Lourie
Introduction by Esmé Raji Codell
Published by Vintage (2005)
ISBN 9780099488866
Buy online


Droll and melancholy, wry and touching, King Matt is a fable that offers a fierce, truthful picture of children struggling to make sense of grown-up nonsense... This small masterpiece is a rare tribute to the psychological depth and marvellous workings of a child's heart and mind.
-- Maurice Sendak


Janusz Korczak was a Polish paediatrician and educator who introduced progressive orphanages into Poland, trained teachers in what is now called moral education, and defended children's rights in juvenile courts. He wrote over twenty books - his fiction was in his time as well known as Peter Pan and his nonfiction works bore passionate messages of child advocacy. During World War II, the Jewish orphanage he directed was relocated to the Warsaw ghetto. Although Korczak's celebrity afforded him many chances to escape, he refused to abandon the children, saying, 'You do not leave a sick child in the night, and you do not leave children at a time like this.' Korczak and the children walked together to the train bound for the death camp at Treblinka.

King Matt the First, one of Korczak's most beloved tales, follows the adventures of Matt who becomes king when just a child and decides to reform his country according to his own priorities. Ignoring his grown-up ministers, he decrees that children should be given chocolate every day and builds the best zoo in the world. He fights in battles, braves the jungle, and crosses the desert, but perhaps the most life-altering thing of all is that the lonely boy king finds true friends. This timeless book shows us not only what children's literature can be, but what children can be.

Now this rediscovered classic is available again, and with a vibrant new cover by award-winning artist Brian Selznick. This timeless tale shows that only through the honesty and spontaneity of children can grown-ups begin to imagine and to create a better world.

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