Friday, August 29, 2008

Book Review: Kenny & the Dragon, by Tony DiTerlizzi

     Kenny made it to the grassy top by sunset... ...Directly below, curled up and sleeping on the far side of the hill, was the dragon.
     He gulped. This animal was bigger than the illustrations in his book. 
     Much bigger.

Kenny is a book-loving rabbit who lives with his farming mother and father. One day, his father bursts in from the sheep field in a panic, announcing that they must pack their things ASAP and light out of there, because he just saw a real, live, dragon! At the top of their very hill! After consulting his borrowed copy of a bestiary, Kenny persuades his parents to let him go check it out. Once he finally meets the dragon, he realizes the bestiary isn't entirely accurate concerning his new friend. But then the townspeople get wind of the dragon, and are so frightened that they prepare to rid themselves of it. Can Kenny show the townspeople that the dragon is not what they think? Or, will he have to make the impossible choice of saving a new friend, or saving an old one?

For Teachers and Librarians:
Fairly short and sweet as chapter books go, Kenny & the Dragon is a great read-aloud or independent read that will capture and hold your students' attention through several sessions and all the way to the very end. The old adage of "you can't judge a book by its cover" is presented in a fresh, new way, and was inspired by that beloved classic The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame. It's a perfect set-up for both a unit on the above-mentioned adage, and also a literature comparison between the two books - written so many years apart, yet still relevant in today's society. Author Tony DiTerlizzi notes on his website (which is very cool, and totally kid-friendly, by the way):

"I think a story like this still has significance today as it did when Kenneth Grahame first told it over a century ago. As a society we still judge and act first, then think about the consequences afterwards."

How's that for inspiration for some fantastic lessons? Even if all you have time for is a bit of discussion, your students will surely be able to enjoy the story, identify with Kenny's predicament, and get to the root of the idea of not prejudging someone - and what could happen if you do. Sometimes the most impromptu discussions lead to the most profound learning for your charges...

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Sometimes kids find themselves up against some pretty tough odds, just like Kenny. And just like Kenny, sometimes kids find that they know something new that others haven't found out yet. And just like Kenny, sometimes it fees like they're all alone as they struggle with what to do with that knowledge. Kenny & the Dragon is a great book for your kiddos to identify with, and enjoy, and feel good about. They'll see that a problem is easier to solve when they have people who care about them to help them figure it out. They'll see the value of being a good friend. They'll see the great things that come of doing what's right. And they'll see that this is just a fantastic book, and will ask to read it or have it read to them over and over and over. 

For the Kids:
Wouldn't you just love to find a dragon, and have it become your best friend? Someone to talk to, and read with, and play with, and learn from? In Kenny & the Dragon, that's just what happens to a little rabbit named, of course, Kenny. At first, his parents are afraid of Kenny's new friend, but then they get to know the dragon, and to like him, too. But, the townspeople are not so keen on having a dragon around. They're sure he's about to eat their sheep and destroy their crops, and maybe even (gasp!) eat them! How will Kenny ever get them to see his new dragon friend for who he really is? If you really wanna know, (and I know you do), then get your parents to help you find this brand new book. That's right! It just came out! And it is totally cool!

For Everyone Else:
Kenny & the Dragon is a quick read for adults. If you're looking for a sweet story to remind you that there is still justice and goodness in this crazy world, this one is just what you need. And it's brand new! Come on - you can't resist that brand-new-book smell, and a feel-good premise, to boot. Go ahead - indulge your inner child a while...

Wrapping Up:
Kenny & the Dragon is a story to remind us all that people are not what they look like on the surface. It reminds us to take the time to get to know people, to support those who we know to be good, and to find a way to get those who have judged wrongly to take another look. Let's face it: we all need a little reminder, now and then, don't we?

Title: Kenny & the Dragon
Author and Illustrator: Tony DiTerlizzi
Pages: 160
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher and Date: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, August 5, 2008
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $15.99
ISBN-10: 1416939776
ISBN-13: 978-1416939771

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