Monday, February 20, 2012
THOMAS AND THE DRAGON QUEEN by Shutta Crum
Despite being the oldest of nine children, twelve-year-old Thomas is a comparatively small boy. Yet he dreams of training to be a knight and serving the kingdom. One day, a chance encounter with Sir Gerald, a knight of the realm, brings Thomas the opportunity to go to the castle and train. The kingdom is experiencing hard times and needs the help of any who are willing and able bodied, even a boy who is extremely short. Sir Gerald sees that Thomas possesses the knightly qualities of being smart and hard working and decides to gives him a chance. Thomas perseveres through his training, working past the ridicules of his peers, eventually gaining the privilege of becoming squire to Sir Gerald. Then one day, a dragon queen kidnaps the princess. There are no knights available to send to her rescue due to the war. Thomas valiantly volunteers and the king agrees to send him and so Sir Thomas heads out on his first quest armed only with a sword just barely longer than a dagger, and a donkey, outfitted only with a leather vest. It is the adventure of a lifetime and Thomas proves that size that nothing to do with what it truly means to be knightly.
Although the basic premise of the story sounds like a generic fairytale, with a knight on a quest to rescue a princess guarded by a dragon, it is anything but typical. The hero is not tall and handsome; he is not even grown up. And when he reaches the dragon’s lair, it is not the standard evil, ferocious, treasure-guarding dragon he meets, and it is not a knight’s strength that is needed to rescue the princess and defeat the dragon. Accompanied by black and white illustrations, some small drawings, others full page or double spreads depicting scenes from the book, for example Thomas among his younger brothers and sisters, several of whom are much bigger than him, or Thomas riding on his little donkey, this book is great for young readers transitioning from picture books to longer chapter books. The story keeps readers surprised and enthralled and emphasizes the importance of qualities such as courage, loyalty and honesty over that of physical appearance and prowess.