No Such Thing as Dragons

Philip Reeve, Scholastic Press, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-545-22224-2
In this somber but rewarding tale, a mute boy named Ansel is sold as a servant to Brock, an itinerant dragon-slayer. It turns out, however, that Brock is a charlatan, who travels the countryside looking for superstitious folk who believe they have a dragon problem. He then pretends, for an appropriate reward, to kill their dragon, showing them a crocodile skull as proof of his heroism. Ansel is relieved that there are no dragons, but bothered by the moral ambiguity of his position. Then, of course, the duo unexpectedly must confront a real dragon, "its head... a short, brutal blade, freckled with hard black scales, the spiny ridges over its eyes as rough as pinecones." With their lives in jeopardy, as well as that of a girl the terrified villagers have left as a sacrifice, the two try to defeat the monster. There's no real magic in this beautifully written, understated story, and the dragon may be nothing more than a pterosaur (presumably the last of its kind), but it's still a dangerous beast, and Reeve (Fever Crumb) describes their confrontation with grim economy. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/19/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 209 pages - 978-1-4071-1483-5
Paperback - 186 pages - 978-0-545-22225-9
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