Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales by Terry Pratchett, illustrated by Mark Beech. Clarion, 2015. 352 pages
Reading Level: Upper Elementary and Middle Grades, Ages 9-12
Recommended For: Ages 10-13
Bottom Line: A collection of fantasy short stories that invites readers to look at the world from different perspectives.
Pratchett’s writing invites readers to see past the known and into the unknown. The stories introduce a motley group of characters, who find adventure in the midst of their ordinary lives. Whether the story focuses on a brave tortoise, the Carpet People’s exploration to find a new land beyond the fibers of their home, or a prince who has a head for excessive facts, Pratchett takes a poignant look at how society functions. Although the book was written for children, adults who read it will be able to pull from their knowledge of history to find intelligent depth in the stories. Pratchett’s style is rich with humor, historical satire, and pragmatic descriptions. The layout of the book is whimsical, with hand drawn illustrations and varying font sizes that emphasize the author’s points. The theme of this collection can be summed up through this quote taken from the book: “Worthwhile things aren’t just there for the taking, you know.” Pratchett emphasizes the need for innovation and creative thinking throughout the stories.
While the stories do contain morals, a spiritual center is absent. Some characters curse when angry (no words are shown, only phrases like “he cursed”), there are several acts of minor violence (a tortoise kills a snake, explorers get into a fight while on their quest), and one story included a sentence about a man and his “newest” wife. There are wizards in a few stories and at one point a short “spell” (made up of nonsense words) is shown. There are “joke monks” who believe that the universe was built as a cosmic joke and when the last joke is told, the universe will cease to exist.
Even with the flaws, the book was a delightful read that encouraged creativity in its readers. It would be a fun read for families who are interested in British satire.
Cautions: Supernatural (wizards), Character issues (cheating), Worldview (Joke Monks – see review)
Overall Rating: 3.5
Artistic Rating: 4
Worldview Rating: 3
Categories: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Read-Aloud
Cover image from amazon.com