Here Be Dragons
By Author / Illustrator
Susannah Lloyd, Paddy Donnelly
Fairy Tales & Folk Tales
Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd
Paperback / softback
This book is about a knight on a mission: to find and slay a dragon. The other knights have told him that there's no such thing as dragons, but he doesn't care. For he has a map, and the map says:
"HERE BE DRAGONS."
He travels right to the spot marked 'X', past treasure, suspicious bones and many signs telling him to turn back. He wanders up and down a huge, spiky hill (the dragon's back) shouts into a burrow (the dragon's nose) and eventually walks into a cave (the dragon's mouth)... Will the hapless knight see the dragon before it's too late?!
Young readers will love spotting the dragon in the background in this laugh-out-loud story from the author of This Book Can Read Your Mind.
Here Be Dragons is a top example of a book that can tell a story in two different ways.
The focus is set on a determined and confident knight who has it mind set on following his map to find a dragon. Undeterred by the comments of others, that dragons don't exist, our brave 'hero' sets off on the hunt. His first clue claims dragons love to hoard treasure, this is followed by hints of burnt dinners, damsels in distress and dark caves. Alas, our knight finds no evidence of any dragons and fears that the others at home may well be right in their claims.
The text is written in the first person so automatically, as the reader, you feel one with the knight. However, I did find the linguistic choices made by Susannah tricky to get my own tongue around. I applaud the use of such different language as it is very innkeeping with the personality of the knight and of the story type....I would suggest other readers practise reading this to themselves a few times through before sharing with an audience. This will prevent any stumbles over words and phrases.
The text within this story tells us about a determined and adventurous knight, who ultimately misses out on his target of finding a dragon. However, Paddy Donnelly's illustrations literally tell a completely different story. I very much enjoyed picking out version number two through the detail within the pictures. This is something that my audience of year 1 children enjoyed too. It really highlights the need for children to understand the illustrations are just as important to a story and book as the words are. From following the pictures alone, you could write a new version of events that is the polar opposite of the knight's story.
A funny, witty and engaging adventure is sure to prove to be a fun story time for young readers. Despite it being tricky to read aloud at first, with practise this would certainly become a firm favourite and I would even suggest older children using it for visual literacy and to study the power pictures have within text.
Picture book / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 3+
Maybe you have heard stories before featuring a knight, a damsel in distress and a dragon. If so, elements of Here Be Dragons will be familiar, but be prepared for some unexpected and humorous twists.
I particularly enjoyed the first double page illustration of the knight leaving the shop where he has bought his 'dragon map'. The delightful details on these pages deserve close examination as there is much to spot, including several mice and a specials' board featuring a list of suspect wares. From there, the over-confident would-be hero sets out with his horse, on a quest to find a dragon. He knows what to look for and is certain he will succeed. However, despite this, he misses all the signs he encounters and, in the end, is in need of rescuing himself. We first meet the heroine of the book when she is tied up, with a handkerchief in her mouth, but soon, her evident superiority over the hapless knight, combined with the astuteness of the horse, comes to the fore and a satisfactory conclusion is reached.
Many of the scenes are populated with a range of animal characters whose activities supplement the main action of the plot. A tale mixes traditional aspects with some essential updates including the use of language, the roles of the main characters and in the illustrations. I expect the story will be read over and over again as there is much to discover and discuss and many details may be missed on first reading.
Picture book / Reviewed by Judith Greenall, librarian
Suggested Reading Age 3+