Raise the drawbridge for a story-within-a-story melding classic fairy-tale trappings with contemporary, tongue-in-cheek wit, abundantly illustrated in black-and-white—a perfect family read.
Noble children Thomas and Emily have always known their mother to be sensible, the lady of the castle—if anything, a bit boring. But then they discover Meg, a cranky scribe who lives in the castle basement, leading a quirky group of artists in producing party invitations and other missives for the nobles above. Meg claims that she was a friend of their mother’s back when the two were kids—even before the dragon lived in the castle. Wait—a dragon? Not sure they can believe Meg’s tales, the kids return again and again to hear the evolving, fantastical story of their mother’s escapades (while putting their fussiest penmanship to work) and get caught up in a quest to reunite the onetime friends.
Kidnapping, fighting, a ferocious dragon, loyal elves, and true love . . . coupled with squabbling siblings, archery practice gone amiss, and ill-fated dives into the moat . . . This multilayered story blends adventure and humor, medieval tropes and modern sensibility, in a satisfying read for the whole family.
Annette LeBlanc Cate is the author-illustrator of The Magic Rabbit and Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.
Telling stories within a story, Cate’s narrative merges traditional fantasy elements with a more modern, conversational tone. . . . many readers will enjoy the understated wit. . . Spirited drawings bring the settings and engaging characters to life in this very readable chapter book.
Clever, multistranded, and off the charts in read-aloud potential.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Light-hearted and fun. . . Frequent ink illustrations look as though they were sketched by the quirky scribes themselves. . . Listening to an elder tell a potentially embellished tale will ring true for many, and the heartwarming resolution between two old friends is the icing on the lemon scone.
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
A story of fantastical beasts that focuses on themes of hard work, determination, and friendship. . . . This adorable mad-cap fantasy will keep readers interested and curious to know what happens next. . . . a great read-aloud that would be enjoyed by all and a must-have for any elementary school library collection.
—School Library Connection
A sparkling chapter book. . . Ingeniously layered, yet infused with a feeling of lively informality. . . Ms. Cate has an admirably playful way of introducing esoteric words into the story so that children will understand them. . . Humorous ink illustrations by the author add buoyancy to this engaging read-aloud.
—The Wall Street Journal