One of my favourite films, when I was growing up, was Dragonheart. (It’s the one with Sean Connolly playing a dragon with a Scottish accent). It introduced me to a fantasy world where you could become friends with a mythical beast that can fly and breathe fire. I desperately wanted to live in that world and be the hero. To ride a dragon, have an epic sword fight with the bad guy and save the kingdom. I must have watched it over a hundred times.
In recent year dragons have made an impressive come-back. Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Pokemon, even Godzilla seems to make a come-back every five or so years (and let’s not forget the big Lego dragon at Legoland). They’re all over the place.
Dragons are back on the kids reading list too . . . and here are my suggestions.
5. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
I had my reasons. a) dragons. b) sea dragons. c) pet dragons. d) fiery dragons. e) I’ve always thought I would suit those Viking helmets with the pointy horns. f) MORE DRAGONS.
This is the tale of how Hiccup, a small and scrawny Viking boy, becomes the hero of the tribe. It’s a fantastic adventure full of excitement and danger and some brilliant bits in between. I could have read this in one go! Did I mention the dragons? They’re great, partly because they talk and get sarcasm, but mainly because the Viking children train them (so jealous).
Highly recommend this read. Well written and great storytelling. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I go and fill in my immigration papers.
4. Eragon by Christopher
So, here’s a book that was written by a fifteen-year-old. That’s right, what did you achieve when you were fifteen? (Don’t ask me, you really don’t want to know!)
To start with there is a real cool-looking dragon on the front cover! And it’s not just epic on the outside, it’s epic on the inside too. There are battles, miracles, elves, high emotions, secrets, dwarves and magic inside this book waiting to hook you in and keep you turning the pages. There’s even an amazing map on the inside cover that you could stare at for hours.
If you are hoping your kids will one day become a fantasy reader, who will actually read every single word of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, then make sure they read this. Seriously, it’s a gateway drug into the world of fantasy.
3. Dragonology by a bunch of interesting people
Time to take a side-step into non-fiction.
This book contains the long-lost research of renowned nineteenth-century dragonologist Dr. Ernest Drake. Inside curious readers will discover why dragons are able to speak, how they can fly and breathe fire, and even maps that will show you where to find them. Written like a mixture of a field manual and a scrapbook, it really is packed full of fun and interactive information.
The elaborate illustrations, pullouts, letters, spells, maps, flaps and popups make this book irresistible to even the most stubborn little anti-readers. Put simply, this book is a work of art. It’s is so magical it was probably stolen from the library at Hogwarts.
I’d say this ancient-looking tome would be perfect for ages 8-12 (but be warned, they may end up believing that dragons are real).
2. The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ll admit it, when I was ten years old my mum gave me The Hobbit to read. Being the nice son I was (and still am) I gave it my best shot.
Now, it’s important to remember that at this point I had barely touched chapter books. I was a PlayStation kid who loved cartoons and riding my bike and was a major disappointment to my Librarian mother. I managed to get to the part where Bilbo escapes [someone] by hiding in a barrel, at which point something else caught my attention. I didn
I’ve obviously come to my senses about reading and finished the book. Tolkien’s children book is a joy to read, full of magic and adventure and, as the reader, you find yourself identifying as the young hobbit experiencing this new, amazing world.
If your kids are anything like me, I’d recommend reading this one to them the first time around. What a shame, right!
1. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Now here’s a book that seems to have been co-written by Tolkein and Willy Wonka!
It was actually written by a delightful children’s author from the USA who now lives in Wales. The first of three books, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart cleverly combines high adventure and high morals. Aventurine must prove herself as a young dragon, but that might be difficult having been transformed into a puny human girl with a sweet tooth. She must navigate the human world and pursue her dream of becoming a chocolatier. (And if you’ve ever wondered if chocolate can save your life, this is a must-read).
This book oozes girl-power, playful humour and real heart. It’s a chocolate-filled, girl-powered fantasy that teaches us about finding your passion, dealing with disapproving parents and trusting yourself to achieve greatness.
… and, last but not least, here’s my DRAGON kids book
Well, it’s still in the oven and no quite done yet (the timer should go off around March 2020).
But you can read the first three chapters here.
Happy reading 🙂
[Excuse for extending your summer holiday]
[Excuse for not going back to school after the summer holidays]
Hello, and BOO!
Book Twelve in my cartoon excuse series is going to be covered in cobwebs and brewed in a witches cauldron. That’s right, I’m going to take on Halloween.
Spiders, vampires, more candy you can shake a broomstick at, werewolves, pumpkins, zombies, and the occasional Math Teacher. It’ll contain my trademark advice on how to increase your candy haul and get the most out of the spookiest night of the year.
Here’s a first look at my current doodles:
My current working title is 49 Excuses for Bagging More Candy on Halloween. I’m working hard to get it ready for release by the end of October (obviously). I’ll let you know once it’s ready for pre-order in the coming days.
Until then, happy reading 🙂
[Excuse for encouraging kids to read more]
[Excuse for encouraging kids to read more]
I’m currently working on a brand new
And, because I have the self-control of a door mouse, I’ve decided to release the first three chapters of the first book. The release dates will hopefully be March 2020. No official title as yet, but it’ll likely be something like How to Defeat a Dragon Overlord.
Chapter One – Nothing Ever Happens
There once was a quaint little town on the
Yep, no need to re-read the last sentence. You read it correctly.
This story is not about a normal town like Cambridge or Durham or Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (a lovely Welsh village which roughly translates as ‘The Church in the valley of fluffy unicorns next to a muddy puddle owned by St Bob the Third, King of all the ginger biscuits‘).
There is a real place called Sandwichand, if you read on, I’d be delighted to tell you more about it.
Here is a map of Sandwich.
[Drawing of a Map of Sandwich]
All the street names are sandwich fillings, like Coronation Chicken Avenue and Egg Mayo Road and Hoisin Duck with Cucumber and Spring Onions Street. There is a meandering river, a dentist, a lovely-but-crumbly church, an orphanage and a sandwich shop called The Sandwich Sandwich Shop.
If you could imagine a sandwich filling, Mrs Wrinklebottom would make it for you. For example, you could ask her for a tuna sandwich and she would reply, “the fish or a snack while I sing Ba Ba Black Sheep?” Mrs Wrinklebottom looked and smelt like she had sampled all the fillings in her shop, including the out-of-date ones.
Mr Dickens suffered from cross-eyed syndrome. Everything he saw had a nose in the way, his nose to be precise. The poor man also had a shaky hand, believed ghosts lived in his cupboard and had an irrational fear of being licked by small children. So naturally he became the village dentist, partly because it paid well, but mostly because nobody else wanted to do it.
Every Sunday morning Reverend Nightingale began her sermons with the words, “lettuce play”. This is because a) her favourite sandwiches are lettuce sandwiches and it amused her as it sounded like ‘let us’, and b) she struggled to pronounce her r’s. Her congregation did not mind as they were all asleep anyway, tucked up in their homes having a lovely lie-in.
In the orphanage sat one lonely child. She was the only orphan in the whole of Sandwich. And to make it even worse the orphanage was a massive old stately home with hundreds of old, dusty rooms. It was the perfect place to play hide and seek, but only if you had someone to play with.
Nothing ever happens in Sandwich. Believe me, more interesting stuff happens in your maths teacher’s pencil case. It is the most boring place in the whole world. So much so that a plaque was put up in the town square which read ‘On 29th March 1918 in this spot nothing happened.’
And so, the people of Sandwich carried on with their boring lives, eating strange sandwiches and not doing anything of any significance. As always nothing happened for the next one thousand years and that was that.
It all started to go wrong after Mr Fitz left town.
Chapter Two – Mr Fitz and his Suitcase of Marvellous Medicines
“Roll up, roll up!”
A confused villager heard the command and rolled up their sleeves.
The travelling salesman chuckled, “that’s not what I meant, me duck.” Mr Fitz put down his suitcase and shouted a bit louder. “Come on you lazy slobs, don’t be shy. Roll up! I ain’t gonna say it again.”
The village folk are a simple but curious bunch. Nothing interesting or noteworthy ever happens in their neighbourhood. So naturally, they were the nosiest people in the whole world. A crowd began to form around the out-of-towner and his mysterious suitcase.
“This is my suitcase of marvellous medicines. I’ve got potions, lotions and ointments for every ailment under the sun. For example, this miraculous cream,” said the salesman as he picked up a small brown tin from his suitcase, “will cure any kind of ache.”
“Would it cure my headache?” asked a scruffy-looking villager.
“What about my back ache?” asked another villager.
“Yes indeed, and your front ache too.”
“Surely it couldn’t cure my tooth, ear and belly ache,” scoffed someone at the back.
“Oh yes it could,” he replied with a smile. “And it would cure all three quicker than a rocket-fuelled rat wearing rollerblades.”
The crowd mumbled with interest. Mr Fitz felt their excitement bubbling, and so he kicked it up a notch. “Or is it the undesirable smells from behind that ail you? Then fear not, as only here in my marvellous suitcase will you find the antidote.” The skinny man, dressed in a purple velvet suit, picked up a green bottle and held it high for all to see. “Uncle Pete’s Anti-Gas reacts with your stomach acids preventing the process during which food turns into unpleasant gas. In just one week you’ll be trumping daisies, guaranteed.”
The crowd grew bigger and bigger. Everyone wanted to see what else was inside the suitcase. Toes were stepped on and beards were pulled, and backbones were used as makeshift stepladders. No one cared as long as they could see that next shiny-looking object being lifted upwards.
“But, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll be pleased to hear that I have saved the best till last.”
Mumblings and mutterings spread across the crowd like jam on a warm crumpet. What could possibly be better? Everyone in the whole village was now standing in the village square hanging on the salesman’s every word.
“Do you suffer from tiredness, paleness, coughs, a runny nose, aches and pains, hair loss, fevers and chills? According to the quacks with fancy university degrees, all such ailments are symptoms of the common cold. They also claim it to be uncurbable. Well, after years of painstaking research I have perfected a medicine.” He then reached down and opened his suitcase revealing hundreds of little, clear glass bottles (and if you had the time to count them, you would notice that there was one bottle for every villager).
“I call it Mr Fitz’s Fabulous Formula. Not only does it cure you
The crowd rushed forwards with shiny silver and golden coins at the ready. Everyone wanted to get their mitts on the formula, except for one inquisitive little girl.
“Excuse me,” the girl asked politely,” “but aren’t you supposed to say, ‘any questions’ at the end?”
“No, no, young lady,” said Mr Fitz as he exchanged bottles for coins. “You’re confusing me for a teacher or a plumber. I’m a salesman, and everyone knows you can trust a salesman. We’re honest folk.” The sides of his mouth awkwardly curled upwards like a caterpillar doing a sit-up.
“But I’ve got a question.”
“Well I’m a little busy at the moment, kid.”
“It’s just that there is a lot of tiny writing on the label of your formula. Why does it have to be so small, I can hardly read it.”
Mr Fitz froze and began to sweat all over. “Read it? I thought none of you country folk could read.”
The people in earshot laughed. “You can ignore little Penny here,” explained a happy customer. “She loves reading and writing and all that educational stuff, but she’s the only one. The rest of us can’t even read our own names.” The villager then took a hearty swig of the formula, “amazing, I can feel it working already.”
“Thank the heavens,” sighed the sweaty salesman. “That, my dear, is what we call in the business ‘the small print’. All the bona fide medicines have them. That’s how you can tell they’re the real deal. As I always say, the smaller the print the better the product.”
“Oh,” said Penny. “I suppose that makes sense. And what about these funny little symbols? This one that shows an upside-down rat with its feet in the air and an ‘x’ where its eye should be is a bit worrying, wouldn’t you agree?”
Her question floated away with no reply. The salesman had just sold his last bottle and vanished into thin air. The crowds began to disperse, each one pleased with their new purchase, as they happily glugged down the formula. Every last drop.
everyone but Penny.
Chapter Three – Earl
Penny skipped home after her unusual morning.
She was excited.
For the first time in her life, something had happened in her hometown and she was clutching a bottle containing it.
The bouncy girl was a proud Sandwichdeerian (which is what you call someone who lives in Sandwich or someone who eats far too many sandwiches). Her parents lived in Sandwich. Her grandparents lived in Sandwich. In her opinion it was the best place in the whole world and the Queen should put Buckingham Palace up for sale and move in next door.
Penny noticed that everyone she passed was glugging Mr Fitz’s Fabulous Formula like a can of fizzy pop. They pulled all sorts of funny faces as they gulped. Some looked as though a hippopotamus had sat on their big toe. Others looked as though a hedgehog had settled down for a nap in their underwear.
She skipped past The Sandwich Sandwich Shop. It was full of customers looking for the perfect lunch. What could she smell this morning? Was it baked beans? Was it brussels sprouts? Or was it blue cheese (a wonderful ingredient which is highly stinky only slightly toxic
She skipped past Sandwich Church. It was an impressive building with a big stone spire and a large stone graveyard and a long stone wall surrounding it. Reverend Nightingale was playing badminton with her favourite member of her congregation. It was a very one-sided match as Mrs Pratt was now dead and under a
She skipped past the dentist. To most it would look like a very normal-looking house. However, Penny knew it was the dentist because of the sounds of low-pitched boredom, medium-pitched drilling and very high-pitched screaming. That and the big sign, which was a giveaway. Outside stood a glass recycling bin full of empty bottles.
She turned the corner and instantly recognised where she was – Cornish Pasty Lane.
She skipped towards a well-used cardboard box. A pair of hairy legs that belonged to Earl, stuck out the box. He didn’t have a house. He didn’t have a job. He didn’t even have any socks or shoes or sandwiches for that matter. The people of Sandwich had become very good at pretending he didn’t exist. But he didn’t care because he still had his words.
“Sharpen me nose and calls me a swordfish! It’s my good friend Penny.”
“Hi Earl. You’ll never guess what happened in the town square this morning.”
“Nope,” smiled Penny. “In fact, quite the opposite. Something happened.”
Earl zapped into the air and landed in the handstand position. “Lick me kneecaps and call me a lollypop!”
Penny explained exactly what happened. About the salesman and the suitcase of marvellous medicines and the bottles of formula that everyone bought. And the more she explained the redder his face became (because he was still doing a handstand).
“Well, scratch me armpit and call me a chimpanzee!”
Penny laughed. She knew this was the way Earl liked to talk so she did not scratch his armpits or call him a chimpanzee. If she did then she would probably lose her fingers to gangrene.
“I was wondering what all these bottles were for.” Earl waved his leg towards the pile of bottles he had collected. “And now that I know they had the formula inside I shall crack one open and lick it until it’s as clean as a whistle.”
Earl walked on his hands over to the pile of bottles and grabbed the closest one. Just as he was about to dribble a drop of formula onto his upside-down tongue Penny kicked the bottle out of his hand. The bottle flew through the air and smashed into a million (and twenty-four) pieces.
“Oy! What did you do that for?”
“I don’t think it’s very safe. See, look at this little symbol on the bottle,” explained Penny as she held up her bottle to Earl.
Earl inspected the symbol and said, “ahhhhh, look at the little rat is having peaceful little nap.”
“Well, I think the rat is having a not-so-lovely death. And just look at the all the small print on the back. I don’t think a formula should have words like ‘dangerous’ and ‘caution’ and ‘only in extreme circumstances’.”
“So that’s what all those squiggles are.”
“Don’t worry, Earl. I’m going to test the formula and I know just the person to be my hamster.”
“Oh, you flatter me,” blushed Earl. “Nobody’s ever called me a nicer name than hamster in all my life.”
“No, no. Not you, Earl.” Penny patted Earl on his stubbly chin and mischievously wiggled her bottle of formula. “I meant Headmistress Lucinda”.
Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think by adding a comment.
(P.S. I’m struggling for a title so your suggestions are more than welcome.)
[Excuse for encouraging kids to read more]
[Excuse for encouraging kids to read more]