• Mart

Knighthood, Wizarding, Royalty For Beginners

Elys Dolan

Knighthood for Beginners had me at “A Dragon must knit, because of all the handicrafts, knitting is the fiercest.” A couple of pages later I was snorting aloud at a double page spread featuring dragons in leg-warmers and hand-knitted plaid leotards doing lunges. That was pages eight and nine of the first book in this series. I’ve been an über fan ever since.

The three books follow the adventures of terrible dragon Dave (that is, he's terrible at being a dragon) and his best friend – a big-headed, German-speaking, goat called Albrecht. Armed with various “for beginners” instruction manuals (he loves books), and with Albrecht on hand to offer advice and eye-rolling at his antics, Dave is on a mission of self-improvement and adventure. It’s a genius premise, and one that keeps on giving. Dolan has a stunning sense of humour, and clearly doesn’t believe in stinting on the funny. Every page is generously stuffed with giggles and readers get great big helpings of hilarious dialogue, a cast of barmy characters from smelly peasants to big bad wizards, and – a personal favourite – hysterical names (Princess Rubella, anyone?). Just when you think things can’t get any more absurd it starts raining potatoes.

In short, these are my favourite kind of funny books. Scratch that, they’re my favourite kind of books, full-stop: the kind with laughter in every line.

Especially recommended for readers about seven and up, Dave and Albrecht perfectly bridge that gap between picture books and chapter books. Dolan is as talented an illustrator as she is a writer, and the frequent switches from text to images to drive the narrative forward bring another level of anarchy. The bonkers double-act also offer adults that rare treat – a treat that has all parents sighing with relief – a book they can enjoy reading aloud as much as their young audience enjoys listening to it. There are plenty of opportunities to do voices, too.

These are perfect Snort! books. Exactly what this site is all about. The only fault I can find is that they were published too late to read to my own kids, who are now ghastly, phone-based teenagers. This hasn’t stopped me from perching hopefully on the end of their beds every night with a copy of Knighthood for Beginners in hand. Sadly, no takers as yet. That said, as I write this my seventeen-year-old daughter has put down her phone, picked up the copy on the coffee table and is reading lines aloud in her best German accent. Thusly, another Dave and Albrecht fan is born.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Children’s

Reviewer: Martin

Full disclosure: I received Knighthood for Beginners as a gift, bought Wizarding myself and OUP sent me Royalty because I made the big, puppy-dog eyes. Not that it in any way changes my love for these books but OUP also publish my own stuff.

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