When a traveling minstrel foretells that he is to become a hero, Wiglaf sets out to fulfill his destiny: he signs up at the Dragon Slayers' Academy. But how can he ever hope to be a dragon slayer when he can't even stand the sight of blood?
This first episode of McMullan's (Nutcracker Noel) Dragon Slayers' Academy series is a silly, good-natured spoof on tymes of olde when dragon slaying was the chosen pastime of the bravest hearts. When a minstrel befriends young Wiglaf, he relates tales of a fearful dragon and bequeaths to the boy a rusty sword that is magicalthough he can't recall the words that will activate its power. Before wandering off, he predicts that the boy will one day be a "mighty hero." Wiglaf then spies a notice advertising a school with just the classes he needs to achieve that lofty status (e.g., How to Stalk a Fire-Breather and 101 Ways to Slay). He and a classmate eventually best a beast by discovering its secret weakness: an intolerance for bad jokes. This caper, at its most comical moments, incorporates Monty Python-esque slapstick and language ("We shall go thitherward to carry out our plan!"); it also sinks to some gratuitous grossness (slime from Gorzil's nose "spattered on the ground in greasy yellow puddles") and over-the-edge inanity (Wiglaf's dragon-slaying crony, Eric, confesses he is actually Princess Erica, daughter of Queen Barb and King Ken). Children will have a few phrases to groan over, yet plenty to chuckle about with these Arthurian-era antics. A second volume, Revenge of the Dragon Lady, is due in November. Ages 7-10. (Oct.)
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Grosset & Dunlap
May 11, 2003
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