Kenny & the Dragon

by Tony DiTerlizzi (2008)

There are different ways to tell a dragon story. Tony DiTerlizzi knows this. Looking for knights and armor and fair maidens? Fire-breathing and flying? Medieval tales of derring-do? Kenny & the Dragon has a little of this.  But it is really about something else…

It’s a story about friendship. Its about confounding expectations. And it’s about really, really liking crème brûlée. Seriously.

Kenny & the Dragon, despite its whimsical illustrations, is about a dragon who is in fact sophisticated, educated, cosmopolitan, even effete. What he is not is dangerous or threatening, although he is quite witty. He is not what you’re expecting.

And that’s the trick of Kenny & the Dragon. Kids and families warm to Grahame the dragon – that’s Grahame “like the cracker.”  They revel in his witty comebacks and his elite taste in the world.  He likes painting, and sunsets, and playing chess, along with that crème brûlée.

Grahame the Dragon is not the protagonist. That would be Kenny, the can-do rabbit, whose parents understand him but who is often misunderstood by his community.

DiTerlizzi creates conflict as Kenny must scheme to protect Grahame from the town’s misunderstood conception of dragons. (“That devil scourge!”) The reader/listener is a willing co-conspirator in the scheme because we know what Grahame is really like.

Kenny & the Dragon is not the first story to center upon a young protagonist protecting a misunderstood character of another species or time. Charlotte’s Web, The Indian in the Cupboard, The BFG, and The Cricket in Times Square come to mind.

But Kenny & the Dragon is not like those books. It’s different in the way DiTerlizzi tells his story and in the way Grahame confounds preconceived notions. That, surely, is why children like it and want you to like it too. We received a lot of “that’s a great book” comments as we carried it around during the month we were preparing resource materials.

We encourage families to discover Kenny and Grahame together. We encourage schools to teach their students about Beowulf and Grendel. Grahame makes quite a few jokes about Beowulf, and there are many recent graphic novel adaptations of the medieval epic ready for elementary school audiences.

We also encourage every school to make crème brûlée together. (It’s the best way to get Grahame to come to your banquet…)