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"Palace Malice" by Donald Woodburn

Why I wrote the Children's Book "Palace Malice"

Over the years I have grown to rather dislike driving on South Africa’s crazy roads, being shoved about in queues, being bullied by people in positions of authority, being brushed aside by those with more and watching so many people battling to hold it together while others simply stomp all over them. Selfishness and the abuse of both the public and the private space does not sit well with me and Palace Malice is my artistic reaction to all of the above: my attempt to claim back some of the good by exposing the above in a humorous manner.

The Book

Palace Malice is my fourth children’s picture book. It follows on in the comic style of my previous book He Sneezed On Me, but this time there is so much more for the reader to engage with due to the fact that it is slightly more sophisticated in content than He Sneezed On Me. There is an edge to the illustrations, definitely an edge to the storyline, the language is more advanced and the issues it explores are socially important. As a result it is a fun wicked read that is perhaps a little nasty, a little naughty and quite a feast of fun!

Palace Malice charts the excesses of a rather revolting woman! We meet her and her Bling King accessory-friend on the first page, then we get to witness her maltreating and taunting caged animals, hounding her servants, abusing the public and flaunting her obscene wealth over and over again. The excess of it all is slightly alluring, rather repulsive and uncomfortably amusing. Couple all this with the Dahlian twist of a delicious demise and you get a book with a message that is strong and important!

Although some may find Palace Malice a little uncomfortable, I feel that in this age of excesses and the rise and rise of the selfish socialite that we need to also introduce our children to reading matter that encourages them to think about the world, our behaviour and our morality.


In the Classroom

My experiences with Palace Malice in the classroom both before and since publishing it, is that this is a book that will often be revisited by children. The response I get when reading it to children has been amazing and very affirming. There is nothing like effortlessly engaging with 8 to 12 year olds simply because of the content of the story. The concentration, the wincing, the delight and the laughter are amazing.

The Illustrations

Robin Date, who comes from KwaZulu Natal, was 16 years old when she illustrated Palace Malice. She worked with pencil crayons on paper and the result is astonishing. No gentle water colours here! Her pictures are bold, bright and extremely sophisticated. Her line and form is remarkable and she is in my opinion an illustrator to watch out for. If she could do this is at 16 then I think that we should all already be itching to see her work at 40!

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