Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi

Becoming Naomi LeonKenny the Rabbit is a little “out there.”  In a teeny tiny town full of mostly farmers, he loves books, reading, knowledge, learning, and most importantly, stories, more than anything else.  His parents are bemused, but supportive, and the rest of the town is just bemused.  No one dislikes Kenny, but, except for George, the old bookseller, don’t understand his sense of wonder and excitement about, well, everything.

That everything changes instantly the day that Kenny’s father bursts into the kitchen with alarming news: there’s a dragon in the sheep pasture.  Unsurprisingly, they’re convinced it’s dangerous–Kenny has a book that says so in no uncertain terms, and also, it’s a dragon

As it turns out, they couldn’t be more mistaken.  Grahame the dragon (“Just the cracker, except with an ‘e’ on the end”) is peaceful, intelligent, cultured, and a voracious reader.  Kenny and his family become great friends with Grahame and life is wonderful–until the day the rest of the town discovers the dragon in their midst.

Terrified, and convinced that Grahame is a danger to everyone, the townspeople send George (who, it turns out, used to be a knight!) to slay the beast and save their town.  Kenny’s two friends are about to fight to the death–what can he do to stop it!

In spite of what seems like a rather bloodthirsty premise, this is an adorable book.  DiTerlizzi is obviously quite familiar with the works of Kenneth Grahame (names sound familiar?), the author of The Wind in the Willows and The Reluctant Dragon, as well as several other classics: Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, and the work of Beatrix Potter.  His references–some in the text, some only in the illustrations–are sly, but humorous and fresh, and make it clear that he loves and respects those authors’ work.

The illustrations should be mentioned especially.  This book is a chapter book, probably at about a 4th grade level, but it is ilustrated throughout with wonderful black-and-white drawings of all of the characters and key scenes in from the story.  It’s rare for more than five pages to go by without at least a tiny illustration in the corner of the page.  These pictures make the story–already amply animated by the spot-on text–come to life.  If published as text alone, this book would have been a lovely way to spend a an hour or two.  With the illustrations, it becomes a must-read.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes animal stories, or gentle fantasy, or ripping-good reads.

Posted by: SH

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