I'm not one to brag, but when I was a young tyke I slayed my fair share of monstrosities. With the help of my trusty Excalibur (aka any sturdy stick), I kept the backyard as well as the neighborhood safe as my friends and I sought out adventure. We vanquished evil, conquered dark and sinister forces, and then would return home to regal parents with our tales of valor over glasses of milk and PB&Js—crusts removed. Then again, my friends and I didn't own SEGAs or Nintendos at the time, so our imaginations were vital to our survival. Can you imagine living back in medieval times? Those kids must have yearned for adventure!
Speaking of yearning for adventure during times of knights and castles, the new children's graphic novel Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado from First Second Books has arrived in the comic book kingdom. A sequel to their first book, Giants Beware! from back in 2012, we follow the ongoing adventures of the bravest little girl in all the land, Claudette, as she seeks to avenge her father and slay the dragon that gobbled-up his legs (and sword) many years ago. Joined by her friend Marie and little brother Gaston, the three of them once again travel through Mont Petit Pierre on another epic adventure.
Azra the Atrocious is the most feared dragon in all the land, and several decades ago Claudette's father, Augustine, went to slay the dragon but instead lost his legs, one arm, and his legendary sword Breaker. Blessed with a magical wooden sword of her own, Claudette feels it's her duty to finish the task her father started, and bring him back the sword he lost a long time ago. After "killing" a giant in the previous book, the kingdom knows of Claudette's bravery, and stubbornness to accomplish any adventure she puts her mind to. While it seemed a simple enough quest to kill Azra, a series of unexpected variables quickly turn things complex, getting the entire kingdom involved.
In Giants Beware!, several seeds for future plotlines are planted, and in Dragons Beware! we see them bloom. An exiled evil wizard named Grombach has returned to power, and marches his gargoyle army to retake Mont Petit Pierre. Along their way to Azra, Claudette & company clash with Grombach, and manage to escape thanks to an old friend from the first book, the Apple Hag. The inclusion of old and new characters keep things fresh and exciting throughout, for every character no matter how small has a part to play in the bigger picture. The quest to retrieve the sword Breaker turns out to be more important than originally thought, for it seems that it could be the only saving grace for Mont Petit Pierre from Grombach. Can Claudette handle such an important task? You betcha!
Aguirre & Rosado's ongoing tale continues to entertain readers of all-ages. While Claudette can be very stubborn to get what she wants, she without question shows immense bravery and doesn't let the odds stacked against her waver from her mission. The supporting cast of her family and friends help keep her eye on the prize, even if it means going through an army of gargoyles and dragons. In the end, the world building is what truly impressed me, and I can't wait to see what Aguirre and Rosado have planned for the next several books in the future.
Rosado's art is the right balance of all-ages and epic fantasy, making the creatures and monsters really shine and steal every page they're in. The contrast of the finely detailed adults and the softer cherubic kids is great, and both styles seamlessly work together as one. The action sequences in particular are absolute eye-candy.
Dragons Beware! is a great read for both parents and children, giving the opportunity to enjoy it together. A great story with fantastic art, it's a must-have for every library and young reader. It will no doubt inspire imaginative adventures and endless summers of hunting dragons for those who read it. Just be sure you don't pick the Apple Hag's apples in your travels.