Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kenny and the Dragon Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Kenny & the Dragon
Author: Tony DiTerlizzi
Genre: Children’s Book, publisher states independent reading ages 9-12
Publication: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (August 5, 2008)
Format: hardcover book
ISBN: 978-1416939771
Full Retail Price: $15.99

How this book came to me: I requested an advance reading copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program. I selected it because it is written by a co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles series which my children both loved and also because my older son is into fantasy books featuring dragons.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Summary: A Modern Telling of the Old St. George and the Dragon Tale; Promotes Peace

Are you familiar with the legend, St. George and the Dragon? If you don’t know the older legend, perhaps you have read “The Reluctant Dragon” was written by Kenneth Grahame (the author who penned “The Wind in the Willows” about a hundred years ago. The general story is about a peaceful dragon who comes to live in a village. Since dragons are usually dangerous beasts the villagers and King want the dragon slayed. However the person who is to kill the dragon, George, realizes the dragon is peaceful and fakes the killing then reveals that the dragon is peaceful.

Tony DiTerlizzi retells the story in more modern times yet still in a fantasy world. In DiTerlizzi’s version the main character Kenny is a schoolboy, or actually, a rabbit who dresses in human clothes and acts like a human. All the characters in this book are animals living as humans. Kenny is a gifted child, a bookworm consumed with teaching himself anything and everything that interests him. Kenny is different than his peers, due to his intelligence. His best friend is an elderly bookstore owner named George, who retired from some kind of work with the King.

The dragon, named Grahame, comes to live on Kenny’s family’s farm. Kenny befriends the dragon, who in addition to being friendly and peaceful also loves books and is an autodidact, who loves Shakespeare and can even play the piano. The dragon is having a splendid life until the villagers find out of his existence and the King calls for his execution. The rest goes along as with the tale as penned by Kenneth Grahame.

The story moves at a fast pace and never slows down. I was hooked into the story and wanted to find out the outcome.

The publisher states this book is for independent reading by children of ages 9-12. This book, due to its gentle nature, would also make a good read-aloud for children under age nine. This book would fit perfectly for a book for a child younger than nine, who is an advanced reader to read to themselves. It is sometimes it is hard to find books on a higher reading level with content that is not too mature for the reader or that doesn’t have highly emotional content for the sensitive reader. (For more book reading suggestions for gifted young readers, see the book “Some of My Best Friends Are Books” by Judith Wynn Halsted.)

My eight year old read the book first and loved it, tearing through it in two sittings. My dragon loving 11 year old was a bit put off by the talking animals part, and was disinterested, much to my surprise; he thought is was a bit childish (he is reading the Eragon books now).

Many issues are raised in the book such as the obvious peace-making and avoidance of murder and violence, not judging a person by their appearance, being open or closed minded, friendships, stereotypes, the power of persuasion and “group think”. Even marketing and commercialism are touched upon, in the part when souvenir t-shirts are being sold for the slaying event!

Teachers and parents looking for books that promote peace and non-violence take note this is a perfect book to fit that bill.

Parents of precocious children, gifted and talented children, and bookworm children will enjoy seeing elements of a gifted child in the main character Kenny.

Some adults like the older stories that have good values and illustrate good character traits and have the good bones of telling a good story. However some children do not like the older language such as is used in one hundred year old books. Other times the parent or teacher assumes the child would not like or understand the older language. What this book accomplishes is taking all the elements and plot from the old, good story, and retelling it in more modern verse for today’s children that is easily read by the children, or read aloud to younger children. The story itself is well-told by DiTerlizzi, he did a great job keeping the story intact and not ruining it by changing it too much, not dumbing it down, and by not making a joke of it as some other authors have done when rewriting the old legends or fairy tales for today’s children.

Bravo to Tony DiTerlizzi for writing a story worth reading!

P.S. Kenneth Grahame's hundred year old tale "The Reluctant Dragon" can be read online for free here, at Project Gutenberg. The story is one chapter in a story book called "Dream Days".

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1 comment:

Tanya said...

Excellent, thorough review. I'm glad you mentioned Kenneth Grahame's "Reluctant Dragon." I figured most reader's would miss the obvious reference. I am glad to know that Tony DiTerlizzi can write a good story as well as illustrate beautifully! Readers might be interested in Bill Peet's "How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head," from 1983. It's a longish picture book with a great theme of tolerance and non-violence also.

Tanya at