I recently discovered ‘Dragons at Crumbling Castle’ by Terry Pratchett and decided I had to read it, straight away. So I ditched whatever it was I reading at the time and read this instead.
Back in the 60’s, when the Discworld was nothing but a distant thought, Terry worked as a Junior Reporter for the Bucks Free Press in Buckinghamshire. Every week he would write a short story for children that were then published in the local newspaper… stories about polite dragons and wizards with pointy hats and tiny tribesman who live in your carpet (which would eventually become his first novel, ‘The Carpet People’).
The 14 imaginative stories are all illustrated, with plenty of inventive words and even the beginnings of the Pratchett style humourous footnote. My particular favourite was ‘The Giant Speck’. Two communities living on either side of a tiny piece of dust dream of making the journey to the Giant Speck in the sky. I loved this imaginative parallel of the Space Race but with rowing boats inside of space shuttles and a nice little moral at the end.
If you’re a Discworld/Pratchett fan (like myself) and you have children then this book is a wonderful opportunity to start them young. Each story would make a magical bedtime story lasting 15-20 minutes. As long as your child is old enough to sit still and young enough use their God-given talent to imagine they’ll love ‘Dragons at Crumbling Castle’… and so will you!
The Opening Line: “In the days of King Arthur there were no newspapers, only town criers, who went around shouting the news at the top of their voices.” – from the story Dragons at Crumbling Castle.
Highlight: Like a back stage pass in the beginnings of this bestselling author. These stories were the first, and I really enjoyed reading the young Terry Pratchett experimenting with humour and the imagination that would later on become his trademark.
Lowlight: Erm… well there are only 14 stories. Who knows, there could be more stories lurking in the shadows waiting for the second volume!
Favourite Quote: “Poor old Dok! Nothing ever quite went right, ever since he had invented language when he accidently dropped a very heavy stone on his foot.” – from the story Dok the Cavemen, about a caveman inventor.
Top Tip: If you buy the eBook version, the Prachett style footnotes are clever little links. Simply click on the tiny number which transports you to the end of the chapter, read the footnote, then click the tiny number again which transports you back to the same place in the story.
Final Verdict: Loved it! If you’re a Pratchett fan you should read this (simply because). If you’re interested in seeing what a young Pratchett would have written then you should definitely read this. If you are a Pratchett fan and you have young children you should definitely, definitely read this with them (I believe it would be called a win-win situation).