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Children's Fiction Country & Ethnic

The King Has Goat Ears

by (author) Katarina Jovanovic

illustrated by Phillippe Béha

Tradewind Books
Initial publish date
Sep 2008
Country & Ethnic, New Experience, Greek & Roman
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2008
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
  • Reading age: 3 to 5


In this lively retelling of a Serbian folktale, each barber who cuts the king's hair ends up being kept prisoner in the palace. One day, however, a young apprentice named Miro accepts the challenge to cut the king's hair. When he discovers that the king has goat ears, Miro is careful not to tell anyone. But alas, secrets have a way of being found out! What will the king do when he learns that everyone in town knows his secret?

About the authors

Katarina Jovanovic is a writer, teacher, journalist and poet. She has won many awards for her poetry. Katarina, who worked for many years in children's programming for Serbian radio, now resides in Vancouver with her husband and two daughters.


Katarina Jovanovic's profile page

Philippe Béha has illustrated more than 200 children's books. He is a three-time recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award and a winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award. He has also been a finalist for the IBBY Hans Christian Andersen Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in Quebec.


Phillippe Béha's profile page


  • Short-listed, BC Book Prizes Chocolate Lily Award
  • Short-listed, Blue Spruce Award
  • Winner, BC Book Prize - Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize

Editorial Reviews

"The colorful and engaging illustrations will intrigue children because of the interesting and beautiful depictions of animals and people."

Library Media Connection

"This is a good addition to folk and fairy tale collections."

Resource Links

“Jovanovic’s clear telling and Béha’s Chagall-esque mixed-media collages elucidate the plot.”

Kirkus Reviews

"Sophisticated collages accompany this engaging tale of self-acceptance."

The Horn Book Guide

Librarian Reviews

The King Has Goat Ears

This simple retelling of an old Serbian folktale expresses the universal desire for self-acceptance. King Boyan is miserable and hides himself from his people because of his silly goat ears. All the barbers of the kingdom are kept prisoners in the palace after they have cut his hair so that his embarrassing ears will remain a secret. Finally, a brave young apprentice barber, Igor, agrees to cut the King’s hair and reassures him that his ears “look just fine”! Igor’s honesty and gentle affirmations help restore the King’s self-esteem. The colour reproductions feature bold, bright artwork and zany collage, which animate the story in folktale manner.

Beha has won the Governor General’s Literary Award and Mr. Christie's Book Award. Jovanovic is an award-winning poet who worked in Serbian children’s broadcasting.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2008-2009.

The King Has Goat Ears

King Boyan has a secret that only his barbers know! He has ears like a goat. Every time the king needs a haircut a different barber is called – and then is never seen or heard from again. The king, fearing desperately that his secret will be revealed, does not allow the barbers to leave the premises but provides them with other vocations to do, all within the castle walls.

When there are no barbers left in the village, Igor, a barber’s apprentice, bravely agrees to cut the ruler’s locks and gains his confidence by assuring him that he looks very handsome indeed. Well pleased, King Boyan allows Igor to return home and continues to call upon him exclusively whenever his hair needs a trim. Igor is very careful not to betray his ruler’s confidence, but finds it extremely difficult to keep the secret to himself. He visits a meadow located outside the village, digs a deep hole in the earth and shouts down into it, “The king has goat ears!” A great weight is lifted from him as he fills in the hole and returns home. However, it is not long before the earth gives up the secret in a most unusual manner. As for King Boyan, he learns to like himself just the way he is!

Katarina Jovanovic relates this Serbian folktale in a charming manner. With her words, she effectively paints the personalities of each character. One can sense the painful insecurity of the powerful king who dreads his appearance. Young Igor’s naivety and generous heart shine through as he strives to be a loyal and caring servant to his monarch. The text, though simple, is a pleasure to read aloud.

Philippe Béha’s vibrant collage illustrations will engage readers with lively colours and energetic juxtaposition of images. The variety of fonts employed will hold the visual interest of readers.

A lively and heartwarming book with a resounding message to all: acceptance of one’s weaknesses, as well as one’s strengths, goes hand in hand with emotional well-being. And who, at any age, doesn’t yearn for that!

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2008. Vol.31 No.4.

The King Has Goat Ears

When young Igor, a barber’s apprentice, volunteers to cut King Boyan’s hair, he learns an embarrassing secret about the man. Igor is careful not to betray the King, but secrets do have a way of escaping. Bold mixed-media collage illustrations heighten this lively and humorous story.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2009.

Other titles by Katarina Jovanovic

Other titles by Phillippe Béha