Dragons Beware! because Claudette wants her father’s sword back, and she’s bringing her friends to get it! She is also determined to foil Gromach’s invasion of her land. Her father and his fellow knight do not initially think she and her friends are up to the task, but they set out anyway, aided by teamwork, good luck, and determination. The book is fast-moving, funny, and satisfying.
Aguirre includes an array of characters and roles for each gender. Claudette’s initial party of child adventurers includes her brother, Gaston, who is an excellent cook, Marie, a princess who worries about her hair and would rather negotiate than fight, and Claudette herself—a fiery-haired, enthusiastic swordswoman who would rather charge ahead and fight than anything else. They are eventually joined on their quest by seven princes, who range from the misanthropic, unnamed prince who decides “I don’t like the world. Or people,” to the cheerful Henri, who will sing through anything. Claudette’s father is a warrior who fights from a wheelchair. His friend and fellow knight, Zubair, is more traditionally muscled and armored. They are all necessary to the quest, and at no point does anyone suggest that any other member of the group is not a hero. Gaston starts out thinking he should be a warrior, like his sister, but learns on the way that magic and cooking are very similar, and both come in handy when one is facing dragons or invading armies. He also finds out that his father is already proud of him, just as he is. It is a great, non-fussy introduction of possibilities for both boys and girls.
The first few to set out on the quest do start out insisting, each in turn, that “I must do this on my own,” but as the quest unfolds and grows more complex with new threats, they come to realize that the need each other. Aguirre shows this through the events of the story without preaching and without losing any of the humor or vigor that pervades Dragons Beware!.
Rafael Rosado’s characters are strongly drawn and full of personality. Claudette’s breakneck enthusiasm is clear the moment the reader sees her. Her father’s determination, her brother’s initial uncertainty, and the princes’ varied approaches to the world are also clear from a glance at the page. He draws sleek, dangerous-looking dragons, and a full-page spread features gnarled, nightmarish “Chomp trees” in battle.
Recommended to middle grade readers who enjoy tales of dragons and derring-do and who like some humor with their adventure.
Dragons Beware! is coming out on May 12 2015.
Claudette begins the story. Images courtesy of First Second Books.
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: May 12th 2015
ISBN: 1596438789 (ISBN13: 9781596438781)