The Meanest Man on Earth
by Steve Dillon; Thomas Kalgreen

"...because of his attitude, the children called him "the meanest man on earth," even though he just wanted to be left alone."

A bad-tempered blacksmith enjoys his solitary life on the edges of a village. One year in autumn, when the children of the village disturb his peaceful life with their mischief, he yells and drives them away. They, in turn, name him "the meanest man on earth." Convinced that the blacksmith is not so bad, a good witch grants him three wishes which help him fool the Devil. With the defeat of the Devil, the children become obedient. The blacksmith reforms as well and asks for one last wish that the witch happily grants.

Dillon and Kalgreen deliver a wonderful story about reformation. Much like Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant, the grumpy blacksmith initially considers children to be trespassers and ultimately undergoes a change of heart. While a loner's perspective is portrayed through his attitude and actions, how a loner may be perceived or misunderstood by others is depicted through the children who brand him as mean. Alternatively, the good witch who gives the blacksmith a chance to redeem himself represents all those who do not believe in biases or prejudices. The colorful illustrations of the Devil and his sons are hilarious and add to the comical elements of the story, where even the Devil has insecurities that the blacksmith may be meaner than him. The transformation of the blacksmith—from using wishes to punish the children to using wishes for greater good—is heartwarming. Simple language and witty tone subtly generate an easygoing flavor without being overtly moralistic. Perfect for reading aloud or independent reading, this book will definitely appeal to children. This is meaningful storytelling, with a hint of wisdom and humor.

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