Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan, 160 pp, RL 3
Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan
Review Copy from Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
Knights vs. Dinosaurs by the inimitable Matt Phelan is one of those books that is so fantastically, wonderfully marvelously fun that it leaves you just a little bit surprised that no one wrote it sooner. Not only did Phelan think of it, he illustrated it and added some delightful twists to it. And, most happily for me and my students, the debut middle-grade chapter book from this picture book and graphic novel author/illustrator is accessible and attractive to kids reading below grade level.
As all knights do when gathered at King Arthur's Round Table for a banquet that drags on and on, accomplishments on the battlefield are often embellished. Which is exactly what prompts Merlin to bait Sir Erec, who has just boasted the slaying of forty dragons, with a cave that is the home of the, "most fearsome creature of all: The Terrible Lizard." Soon enough, Sir Erec, the Black Knight, Sir Hector, Sir Bors and his squire, Mel, are headed to the cave, where, rather than a fierce beast, they discover a large, leather-bound book titled, The Terrible Lizards. As Sir Hector, the only one of the knights who is literate, picks up the book and reads the title, a wind rushes through the cave, extinguishing the torches. And the adventure begins!
The knights and Mel, carrying the bag of weapons, leave the cave and find themselves in the prehistoric era, battling for their lives. Phelan weaves humor throughout some truly epic battles between knights and dinosaurs, both carnivores and herbivores, a few of which play out over graphic novel-style panel pages. Hubris and plain old ignorance get the knights into more than a few scrapes, but Mel always seems to find a way out. Ultimately, it is teamwork and the desire to rescue the squire (after all, it's Mel's intelligence and thoughtfulness have kept them all alive in this strange land) that deliver them from it.
Amidst the epic battles of Knights vs. Dinosaur, there are surprising revelations that I will not divulge because they are a delight to discover. That said, I can assure you that this is a book both boys and ESPECIALLY girls will love!
Back matter includes a note from Merlin, as dictated to his enchanted owl who can both write and draw, with interesting facts about the dinosaurs that appear in this book.