Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kenny & the Dragon, by Tony DiTerlizzi

Title:  Kenny & the Dragon
Author:  Tony DiTerlizzi
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster Books for Young readers
Year:  2008
Pages:  160
Genre:  Animal Fantasy
Themes:  Friendship, Acceptance, Non-Violence
Age Range:  3rd through 5th Grade

Summary:  from Goodreads
What do you do when your new best buddy has been designated a scourge by the community and marked for imminent extermination? Just ask Kenny Rabbit. When the simple folks in the sleepy little village of Roundbrook catch wind that there's a dragon running loose in the countryside, they get the wrong idea and the stage is set for a fight to the death. So it's up to Kenny to give his neighbors front-row seats to one of the best-known battles in history -- the legendary showdown between St. George and the dragon -- without losing a friend in the fray.
In a media landscape for children that seems to subsist mostly on CGI and splashy graphics, this slim novel is a welcome throw back to old fashioned children's stories.  Kenny and his new friend the Dragon are charming-a word I feel like I've been throwing around a lot lately with the kids books I've been reading.  But considering some of the post-modern, ironic, or just downright gross titles for kids out there these days (Walter the Farting Dog, anyone?), I find it refreshing to get some sweet, non-scatological stories!  

Kenny is a very good rabbit, if a little misunderstood by his farmer parents, who don't understand why he always has his nose in a book.  Imagine his delight when he finds an actual dragon in his backyard-a dragon who is just as enamored with books and stories as Kenny himself.  Their friendship is a not very subtle example of how people from vastly different backgrounds can find understanding through shared interests.  That instant connection is what makes it so horrifying to Kenny that everyone in the village wants to come and kill the mean, nasty, killer dragon.  After all, they don't even know him!  And what did the dragon ever do to them, anyway!?!  Again, a not very subtle message about the consequences of stereotypes, but perfect for younger readers.  And then there is the violence aspect.  When faced with a real angry mob, Kenny and his family uses their wits to give the villagers just what they wanted, without anyone getting hurt.  I appreciate any story that shows how brains are better than brawn!  I think that this would be a great novel to use in a fantasy unit, and there is ripe fodder for discussion.

The other thing that this book has going for it, other than the above mentioned themes, is the excellent writing.  This book is full of rich vocabulary and unusual ways of saying things.  Because, of course, the dragon is quite old, and has a rather antiquated way of speaking that is engaging, and might cause a younger reader to really have to use those context clues we all try so hard to teach. All in all a solid classroom choice,  either for guided reading or as an independent read for a proficient reader.

1 comment:

  1. Love this book! It's hard to get some of my students to read it because of the vocabulary it puts it at a 5th grade reading level and we only go up to 5th grade in my school. I love Tony's writing! :)