cover image Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales

Terry Pratchett, illus. by Mark Beech. Clarion, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-544-46

In the 1960s, the young, not-yet-knighted Pratchett worked for the Bucks Free Press, a small British newspaper, where he began publishing children’s stories, 14 of which are collected in this volume. In the title story, King Arthur’s most junior knight, Ralph, “a small boy in a suit of mail much too big for him,” is sent to deal with a dragon infestation, but discovers that the creatures are entirely sensible chaps. “Tales of the Carpet People,” a precursor to Pratchett’s first novel, concerns a tiny tribe’s heroically goofy migration across a rug. And in “The Great Egg-Dancing Championship,” a skilled egg dancer (“A lot of eggs are rolled onto the floor and two dancers... have to dance blindfolded without breaking one”) must choose between the championship and the girl of his dreams. Though these stories lack the perfectly timed wordplay of Pratchett’s later work, they are a charming and funny sample of his early fictional imaginings. Accompanied by Beech’s wiry Quentin Blake–like illustrations, as well as numerous typographical flourishes, this volume will please both its intended audience and older Pratchett completists. Ages 9–12. (Feb.)