Dear friends, this post has been languishing in my drafts folder for far too long. It seems that I have fallen out of the habit of blogging, and everything else (but mostdefinitelytoomuchsocialmediatime) has expanded to fill the spot it used to have in my life. I’m going to try to ease my way back into posting more frequently without stressing myself out. We’ll see how that goes!
The DLM and I spent a couple of weeks in April on a delightfully imaginative romp with Henry and the Chalk Dragon in a book by that title by Jennifer Trafton. I was eager to read this book, having read Trafton’s The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic aloud to my girls years ago. All of the things I said in that review about Trafton’s writing are true in this book, too: it positively sings with simile and metaphor, alliteration and assonance. That isn’t to say, though, that it’s a highbrow literary story that flies over the average six year old’s head; no, in fact, I predict the DLM will count this as one of his favorite books of the year!
In this story, Henry, who’s an artist, experiences the unthinkable when his chalk dragon comes to life and escapes from the back of his bedroom door where Henry had drawn it. Henry then has a real knight’s quest before him: rescue his sometimes-best friend, Oscar, from the dragon before the dragon eats Oscar. This quest takes Henry into the halls of his elementary school where the dragon wreaks all sorts of havoc.
Oh, my–what a joy it was to read this book aloud! Trafton has the remarkable ability to create countless figures of speech without employing a single cliche. I positively giggled at times when I read something unexpected, like this:
The dragon attacked, swinging its horn and hopping from side to side on its one leg like a bull on a pogo stick. Henry braced himself behind his shield. His feet were as quick as Q-tips in a tornado. His sword was as swift and swishy as a hummingbird caught in a washing machine (156).
Other times I pause and nodded reflectively at the complete appropriateness of the comparison:
Henry was telling the truth. Dragons aren’t scary–well, they are, but they’re a good kind of scary. They’re the kind of scary you want to be scared of. People are the bad kind of scary, he thought. Dragons can only eat you, but people can laugh at you, and that is like being chewed to death by a smile (18).
There’s quite a bit of snarky, school-related humor that I think most people could appreciate, too. My favorite exchange involves the Bored Members (Henry’s words) and their startling declaration:
“I can assure you,” chirped the principal, “La Muncha Elementary School is the safest school in the county. It’s an emergency-free zone. Absolutely unbreakable windows! Doors so thick a herd of elephants couldn’t barge through! Fireproof carpets! Sprinklers in every room! Perfectly polished doorknobs! There is nothing we would not do to protect the well-being, comfort, health, and happiness of the beloved pupils entrusted to our care.”
“But Principal Bunk–” said the Bored Man.
“We’re sorry to say–” said the Bored Woman.
“The Bored has decided that there will no longer be a need for doorknobs.”
“Yes, doorknobs have been cut out of the budget.”
Principal Bunk stopped walking and swallowed so hard that Henry could see the swallow slide all the way down his necktie. “Doorknobs?”
“Studies have shown that doorknobs will not help students do any better on tests. Therefore, all doorknobs must be turned in to the Bored by next week.” (83)
Anyone who has ever tried to standardize education will appreciate this. 😉 Also, anyone who loves a good book replete with literary allusions (La Munch Elementary, anyone?) will in all likelihood adore this one. We give a rousing Highly Recommended to Henry and the Chalk Dragon and can’t wait to read whatever Jennifer Trafton comes up with next! (Rabbit Room Press, 2017)
**Special thanks to Rabbit Room Press for sending this one my way for review! As always, the thoughts are my own. However, I will say that receiving an unsolicited email regarding this book from Pete Peterson pretty much made my week! 🙂