Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde


Image from JasperFforde.com

Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012
9780547738475

SUMMARY
Jennifer Strange, 15 year old foundling from the Sisters of the Lobster Orphanage and indentured servant/acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, never thought much about the last surviving dragon Maltcassion. She was always too busy handling the endearing, but finicky staff of Kazam wizards. And she thought even less about the dragonslayer until that fateful day when she learns she is in fact the last dragonslayer. The most powerful wizard in history, the Mighty Shandar, even declared it so 400 years ago when he created the Dragonpact to protect humans from the destructive dragons. At the same time, the Ununited Kingdom is thrown into chaos as wizards everywhere begin to pick up a precognition that Maltcassion will die on Sunday at noon. Aided by her assistant foundling Tiger Prawns and her loyal (and very intimidating) Quarkbeast, Jennifer finds herself in the middle of a complex web of magic, deceit, war, and politics, with occasional transient moose. Will she have to slay the dragon? What will happen to the unspoiled nature of the Dragonlands when the last dragon dies?

Fforde’s book is full of unique characters and off-beat, witty humor. Jennifer is a reluctant heroine, who would rather deal with practical matters than the vagueness of a prophecy. The plot is tightly woven and no small detail goes to waste. Everything ties together as the prophecy comes true, but with unexpected twists and turns along the way. The book is set in a sort of parallel universe of the United Kingdom where magic is part of the fabric of life and dragons are not just the stuff of legends. In a clever, humorous way big issues, including war, greed, and environmentalism, are addressed. In lesser hands these themes could slow down the story or make it preachy, but Fforde has deftly created a hilarious, yet thought-provoking tale.

Read an excerpt of the book to get an idea of Fforde’s clever sense of humor or listen to a bit of the audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Jasicki.

CONNECTIONS
*The books are published first in the UK and then sometime later here in the US. The second book in the Chronicles of Kazam, Song of the Quarkbeast, is soon to be published in the US (I’ve heard September 2013). The final book in the trilogy, The Return of Shandar, does not currently have a US publication date.

*Check out the Special Features section of Fforde’s website for more information on the characters, setting, and other fun tidbits about the series.

*View the imaginative book trailer. Have kids do their own reporting of the events in this or another book.

*Use this book for a book club discussion. Talk about the similarities between the Dragonlands and our National Parks. Do you think the dragons have been misrepresented? If you created the Dragonpact, what would you have done differently? 

*Readalikes:
Boom! By Mark Haddon
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Neddiad: How Neddie took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by Daniel Manus Pinkwater, Illustrated by Calef Brown
Wee Free Men by Terry Prachett

RECOMMENDED AGE/GRADE LEVEL
Age 11+ / Grade 5+

-Amy

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