Recommended for ages 9-12
This adorable book teaches children the power of not judging someone (or something) on gossip, and illustrates the potentially destructive power of gossip.
Kenny is a young, bookish rabbit. His parents are farmers, but he’s always got his nose in a book. His only real friend at the book’s beginning is the old badger, George, who runs the bookshop in the nearby village. Kenny visits George to play chess and read in the bookshop, and George often lets Kenny borrow books to take home and read.
One day, Kenny’s father comes home with the news that there is a dragon in his meadow. Kenny runs to his bookshelf and grabs his bestiary, on loan from George, and learns that dragons are vicious, fire-breathing, maiden-devouring beasts. Creating a suit of armor for himself fashioned from pots and pans, he sets out to take a look at the dragon, who ends up being a perfect gentleman named Grahame (“like the cracker, but with an e on the end”) and quickly dispels all myths set forth in the bestiary – in fact, he asks Kenny if he can borrow it, because he loves reading good fiction. Grahame is something of an epicure, enjoying good poetry, music, and food. He spent years trapped in the earth after falling through a fault line, but he never saw the point in chasing maidens and killing knights – his fellow dragons died out because of their taste for terror, and he just wants to enjoy life.
Kenny introduces Grahame to his parents, who also include the dragon in such family activities as picnic dinners where they cook delicious meals just for him. Kenny and Grahame’s friendship is put at risk when other villagers, fearful of the rumored dragon in the land, call for the king to take action. The king calls his retired dragonslayer into service – Kenny’s friend, George Badger. Kenny’s two best friends may have to do combat because no one bothers to learn the truth about dragons – what can Kenny do to save the day?
Tony DiTerlizzi is one half of the duo behind The Spiderwick Chronicles. Kenny and the Dragon, based on the 1898 story The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, introduces readers to a new group of memorable characters as he peppers tributes to the original story throughout the book. Aside from the tribute to Kenneth Grahame, he names George the bookstore owner/dragonslayer after St. George, who features in the Grahame story; other characters from the original story also find a place in DiTerlizzi’s world.
Placing the story in a fantastic, anthropomorphic world is a wonderful way of bringing this story to a new audience. DiTerlizzi expands on the original tale as a way of getting big ideas across to little people – the town mob, pitchforks and all, is riled up by the mere presence of a dragon, but no one bothers to try and get to know him – all they have is rumor to go on, and that’s good enough for them.
DiTerlizzi illustrates Kenny and the Dragon in the same line sketch format as Spiderwick, bringing Grahame, Kenny, and the rest of their world to life. The sketches bring old fairy tale stories to mind.
DiTerlizzi’s website, Never Abandon Imagination, provides more information about his books and includes links to his artwork, blog and social media connections (YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook).