King Arthur's Very Great Grandson

illus. by author. 40p. Candlewick. July 2012. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5311-8.
PreS-Gr 2—Henry Alfred Grummorson traces his lineage back to King Arthur himself, so it seems perfectly natural to him that, on his sixth birthday, he mounts his trusty donkey, Knuckles, and goes out looking for a perilous beast to slay. Nothing goes according to plan, though: the Dragon merely blows smoke rings, the only battle the Cyclops is interested in is a staring contest, and the Griffin wants to play checkers, for heaven's sake. Though he doesn't find the epic battles he imagined, Henry finds that friendship is something worth questing for. The text skips along like Henry's donkey, bringing this irrepressible young boy to life. Kraegel's winsome illustrations, full of expressive details and a timeless palette, recall the work of John Burningham.—Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD
Henry longs to ride into battle like an old-fashioned knight, but his potential opponents (dragon, griffin, etc.) are only interested in friendly competition. So, while Henry never fights, he does make new friends. The simple resolution is balanced by the humor of Henry's predicament and his incongruous chivalric language. With its intricate patterns in fine black lines, the meticulous artwork invites scrutiny.
A fresh and fun story that draws on myth and legend and is engagingly told. Kenneth Kraegel’s eye-catching illustrations—which alternate scenes of a comically small Henry in sweeping landscapes with scenes of comically small Henry confronting enormous creatures—feature striking patterns and texture. Especially notable are the hundreds of individual tufts of grass; a tree’s swirly maze-like bark; and the sea’s “roiling waters,” composed of masses of serpentine armed hands. Deadpan humor (for example, Henry rides a trusty donkey named Knuckles) and droll dialogue, including Henry’s all-capital entreaties (“AHA, STRANGE BIRD! I AM COME! AND AT LAST I HAVE FOUND A WORTHY OPPONENT! NOW UNSHEATHE YOUR CLAWS AND LET US HAVE ADO!”), make for a great read-aloud. Kids will find it amusing that while Henry is so set on physical duel—“a fight to the uttermost”—the nonviolent beasts are only interested in peaceable challenges, such as a staring contest and a game of chess.

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