cover image The New Kid at School

The New Kid at School

Kate McMullan, K. H. McMullan. Grosset & Dunlap, $3.99 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-448-41592-5

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 magical--though 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.)