Macmillan Children’s Books. First Published 2016
Elli Woollard and Benji Davies
I would be lying if I said I didn’t think there were overtones of Julia Donaldson’s “Zog” in Woollard’s “The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight”, but I would be doing the author a huge disservice if that deterred one person from buying this charming book, which is strong enough to stand on its own four paws.
True, there’s a child which rescues an injured dragon and acts as a doctor to patch it up.
True, there’s a dragon which is learning its craft.
And true, the pair become friends and realise that fighting isn’t the solution… but that is as far as the similarities go.
Woollard’s dragon offering is based on a premise of mistaken identity, and is rhymed beautifully with lots of repetition as Dram, the baby dragon, goes hunting for “dribblesome, nibblesome, knobble-kneed knights.”
There’s a splattering of onomatopoeia, with CRASH-es and SPLASH-es and FLAPs and CLAPs which add to the dynamism of the 604-word text.
But the real strength of the book lies in the warmth of the text, superbly married with Benji Davies’s illustrations (The Storm Whale, Grandad’s Island).
In short, the story centres around a baby dragon, Dram, who has been sent off solo to hunt for a “nibblesome” knight to eat.
But he becomes injured on his journey into the big wide world and lands bedraggled in a lake.
Cue knight-in-training James, who takes off his armour and wades in to rescue the poor, injured ‘duck.’
James makes a sling for his paw, fetches honey for his sore throat and the pair enjoy fruit from an orchard together.
The following day, after Dram has had a good night’s sleep and feels strong enough to hunt a knight, he sets off to say goodbye and thank you to James.
So he strode down the road and he stomped through the field…
…and there was young James with a sword and a shield.
“You’re a knight?” shouted Dram. “You’re not simply a lad?”
“You’re a dragon?” yelled James. “You’re all beastly and bad?”
“Yes,” muttered Dram. “I suppose I should bite.”
“Oh!” mumbled James. “Then I guess I should fight…
…it must be all over. The finish. The end!”
Then they both said at once, “But I can’t, YOU’RE MY FRIEND!”
Children get their traditional ‘happily ever after’ but the final page turn will have parents and children giggling when Dram’s dragon family sometimes forget their table manners.
“Nibble at knights? Why, of course we do not!” Though every so often, they sort of…
Verdict: A book which deserves to fly off the shelves.