Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book #10: The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie DePaola

Image from Amazon.com
Recently I put together a knights and princesses themed storytime and rediscovered this book. It’s the story of a knight who wants to fight a dragon, so he studies books and practices until he’s an expert jouster. At the same time, there’s a dragon who desperately wants to fight a knight, so he gets some books and works until he can breathe fire with the best of them. Finally, the day of The Fight arrives, but wouldn’t you know it? They’re so evenly matched that neither of them wins! A librarian wanders by, sees the dented knight and singed dragon and hands them a book on cooking. So they open a BBQ restaurant, with the knight as waiter and the dragon using his fire breathing techniques in the kitchen.

The illustrations are classic Tomie DePaola. The people are small and round and there’s nothing scary about this dragon. The first half of the book alternates between the knight and dragon. Many of the pages are divided into smaller panels (rather like a comic strip) that show how the knight and dragon are progressing in their studies. The simple text is extremely minimal, some pages are completely wordless, however the illustrations are detailed (but not at all busy. DePaola is a master of simplicity). Once you’ve read it out loud, this is a great book to have children “read” back to you, even if they can’t really read. The pictures do such a wonderful job illustrating the story that it’s easy to see what’s going on. Kids really get a kick out of getting to tell you a story for a change, plus it gets them jazzed about learning to read. So even if they make up their own words or change the story, just go with it. It’s more important to keep the excitement.

If you want to take a moral away from the book, it would be that BBQ is better than fighting. The book can lead to a discussion about fighting or friends/enemies, but mostly it’s a funny story. My inclination is to laugh with the knight and the dragon, rather than moralize. This book is best with kids ages 4+ because they probably understand what knights are and that they traditionally fight dragons. The activities I’ve picked out are better for that age range as well.

Image from 3 Garnets & 2 Sapphires blog
If you have a cardboard box lying around, it’s easy to cut it into the shape of a shield and decorate it. You can cut shapes out of construction paper or color straight on the cardboard. Use duct tape to attach a strip of scrap fabric or rope to the back of shield to make it easy to carry. If your child gets really into it, you can research coat of arms and the symbolism behind the animals, colors, etc. Then you can create your own. You can use the leftover cardboard to make a simple sword. Just be sure to talk about proper sword safety. Even knights have to follow rule. And if you’re feeling even craftier you can try making a helmet or even a suit of armor. Prefer the dragon? Try a paper lunch bagdragon puppet. It’s designed for Chinese New Years, but I think it fits right in with this story.


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