Adventure! Monsters! Snappy Dialogue!

Dragon Slayers’ Academy:  The New Kid at School

Author:  Kate McMullan

A bit:

“‘My lord,’ Yorick said, ‘the Toenailians have brought Gorzil all their gold.  Now he swears to burn Tonail to the ground unless a son and daughter of the village are outside his cave tomorrow.  Tomorrow at dawn, in time for breakfast!’  ‘Oh, that’s nice of Gorzil,’ Torblad said, cheering up. ‘Having company for breakfast.'”

The first in a series of MANY begins the adventures of a lad named Wiglaf as he sets out to change his fate from maltreated third son in a ridiculously lazy/stupid/greedy family to that of a…dragonslayer.  And it is all fun and wacky times from that point onward, as Wiglaf and his pet pig Daisy join the Dragon Slayers’ Academy. The story’s best element is its humor, with weird characters and dialogue that is full of jokes.  It’s like Monty Python for third graders in many ways, and I can tell it will go over well with my third grade students (especially the boys).  I think it might make a good read aloud–not too long, full of humor, and a good way to introduce the series to my students.

Underworlds:  The Battle Begins

Author:  Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott’s got a newish series!  Underworlds kicks off with a kid named Owen seeing his pal Dana get sucked down through the school floor into the underworld.  Owen, along with fellow students Jon and Sydney, sets off to save Dana, encountering mythic creatures from both Norse and Greek mythology along the way.  This chapter book is definitely heavier on the action than The New Kid At School, but has some snappy dialogue.  Honestly, it feels like the books a third or fourth grader might enjoy before they are ready for Rick Riordan’s work.  Abbott makes the characters likable and gives them each some distinguishing traits that help explain their motivations and advance the plot.  Like the first book in many series at this level, it is really about setting up a world for further adventure and exploration as the series advances.  For kids who are interested in mythology, the Underworlds series is very promising.  Falling in the mid-third to mid-fourth grade range in terms of level, the series is also one I plan to consider for some instruction.  One of the fourth grade literature standards involves determining meaning of words that allude to significant characters in mythology.  Nothing jumps out at me yet, but I’m going to continue reading the series to fish for possible examples–and because I like it!  This series will, I predict, be popular with both my girls and boys in third and fourth grade, because it has a lot to offer–action, main characters that are both male and female, bits of mythology, and some humor mixed in here and there.

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