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Saint George and the Dragon Paperback – September 4, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
This adaptation of The Faerie Queen features illustrations that "glitter with color and mesmerizing details," said PW. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Praise for Saint George and the Dragon:
"[The illustrations] glitter with color and mesmerizing details."―Publisher's Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
If you're not familiar with the tale of the Red Cross Knight and his fair lady Una I'll give you a little update. In this story, Una is the princess of a realm that has been threatened by a dragon. Because her parents are wussies Una takes it upon herself to find a champion who will do battle with the fowl beast. Such a champion she finds in the Red Cross Knight and the two travel back to her land accompanied by her white donkey, pet goat, and dwarf servant (as per usual). In time, they find the dragon and three times does the Red Cross Knight fight with it. The first time he collapses from battle and is restored by a magic pool. The second time he collapses and is restored by a magic apple tree (don't ask). The third time he mightily smites the evil creature and his hand is promised in marriage to Una. But the knight is sworn to the Faerie Queen and he must serve her further before he settles down with his lovely wife.
If you've read "The Faerie Queen" then you can tell that there's been some serious editing done to this telling. In some ways the Una of the original tale is far more gutsy and virtuous than her watered down compatriot in picture book form. Just the same, there's no getting around the fact that this story would never have even taken place if Una had capitulated to her parents' fears and not sought help. Author Margaret Hodges is clever enough to insert the occasional phrase from the original text when appropriate. These are usually fairly easy to read, though kids might stumble over a word or two. And there's no getting around the fact that this puppy is wordy. Still, considering how much was in the original text...
Let's face facts here and now though. Would this book be anywhere without the fine lines and exemplary technique of Ms. Hyman? Interestingly enough, I was mightily disappointed in Hyman's dragon. She excels at human and fairy faces in this book, but the dragon featured isn't frightening enough. His clawed hands are thick and clumsy and his fire breathing is paltry at best. Still, everything else here is superb. For example, Hyman is so careful about getting even the smallest details right that the borders of her pictures are filled with plants, flowers, and berries that are native to the British Isles. There too, she has created a kind border technique where characters can peer intently at the reader from time to time. I think one of the things I like best about her illustrations is the way Ms. Hyman breaks through the fourth wall. At significant moments characters in her books will regard the reader with blatant stares, as if they're daring you to challenge their importance in the tale. The result is always shocking, never predictable. Frankly, this book may lack in the whole big-green-scaly-monster department, but it excels everywhere else.
If you're interested in getting the kids involved in Spencer from an early age onward, you could do worse than pick, "Saint George and the Dragon". Big fights, big words, and epic plotting... what more could a kid hope for? I'm not going to pretend that some kids won't be bored to death by this book because some most definitely will. But there's always that odd child here and there that will take this book to heart and carry it with him or her for the rest of their days. For them was this book written.
Unlike most children's stories, this one captures the full richness of the original tale as told by Spenser in the Faerie Queen. Without all the background of that story, some references here are not clear, so you'll want to explain them to your child.
The book features a ferocious three day battle between St. George and the dragon. For sensitive children, that battle in this book could encourage nightmares. I suggest that you either not share the book with children who might be frightened, or read it to them early in the day.
When a dragon terrorizes her father's kingdom, Princess Una escapes from the family castle to seek help. After an arduous journey, she finds the Red Cross Knight and calls upon him for assistance. He follows her back toward the castle. Along the way, he glimpses aspects of his future life.
Upon the plain surrounding the castle, a terrible and aggressive dragon waits to attack. The knight bravely attacks, but his weapon is no match for the dragon. He is gravely wounded and falls to the earth. It looks like the battle is over. Miraculously, the knight is restored to full strength the next day. The battle recommences, and the knight is again devastated by the dragon. But the knight has injured the dragon a little. Once again, the knight revives and the third day provides the titanic battle in which the knight slays the dragon.
The king and queen come out to welcome the knight, and offer him many riches. The knight modestly declines and pleads that the riches be given to the poor, instead. The king offers Princess Una's hand in marriage and his kingdom. The knight protests that he must serve the Fairy Queen for 6 more years. The king says that is all right, and the two are married. The knight comes and goes to serve his duty.
In time, he becomes known as St. George, the patron saint of England.
The story contains many worthwhile moral lessons such as being steadfast in one's duty, overcoming adversity through persistance and courage, and preferring to help others rather than seeking rewards for oneself. As such, the book is much more inspiring and heroic than most modern children's literature, and will become a favorite of those who like to take the challenges of the hard path.
After you and your child finish reading this story, on some occasions you should talk about what challenges face modern people. How can we serve others? How can we be modest in our pursuit? How can our lives provide lessons for others?
Pursue to the limits of potential and imagination!
My grammar-stage son...well, his comment was, "A[...] wanted the dragon to win!" He's a big softie when it comes to critters. I think most kids will relate to the citizen's fearful reluctance to approach the dragon, even when dead: "'Those claws might scratch my son, or tear his tender hand.'"
Great way to introduce an old story to a young audience. Fantastic illustrations. Four stars!