Great and Noble Knighttime Reading
Ronna Mandel reviews King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 4-7) written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel.
Meet Henry Alfred Grummorson, the newly turned six-year-old descendant of King Arthur of Round Table (and I’m not talking pizza) fame. On his birthday Henry seeks to follow in his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s footsteps and find adventure around every corner. Alas, the first bit of excitement he encounters is a smoke-rings blowing Dragon, not the fire-breathing one he so desperately hoped to battle.
Here parents can channel their best British accent when reading the bold print aloud: “BEHOLD, VILE WORM! I, HENRY ALFRED GRUMMORSON, A KNIGHT OF KING ARTHUR’S BLOOD, DO HEREBY CHALLENGE YOU TO A FIGHT TO THE UTTERMOST!” Henry’s demand to fight comes to naught when the docile Dragon suggests he look for the Cyclops, high in the mountains. The young lad, eager to uphold the family name, goes in search of the Cyclops who, like the Dragon, is more interested in playing, this time in a staring match. After that it’s onto a chess-playing Griffin and a less-than-lethal Leviathan, all wanting just one thing, friendship.
Will Henry discover that making friends beats doing battle? Kraegel conveys this and other important messages including: perseverance pays off, friends come in all shapes and sizes, appearing when we least expect them and stereotyping gets it all wrong every time because as the book shows, big does not necessarily mean one’s bad or a bully.
Kraegel deftly blends his beautiful water color and ink illustrations with his well-timed text as readers follow along on Henry’s quest. Youngsters will want to join in repeating Henry’s loud declarations. Maybe even trying out their own Monty Pythonesque voice because the dialogue really calls for having fun with this story. My only recommendation is that parents first try this picture book out in the daytime (before knighttime) what with all Henry’s shouting and exclaiming, it might not be conducive to lulling your littlest ones to sleep!