What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is not much to worry about here. Adults smoke pipes and drink ale.
What's the story?
Kenny, a book-loving rabbit, meets a dragon named Grahame, who loves Shakespeare and creme brulee. This gentle dragon and Kenny soon become friends. Kenny's only other friend is George, an elderly badger who runs the local bookstore. When the townscritters discover that there's a dragon living nearby, they turn to George, a former knight, to slay it. Now Kenny must figure out a way to keep his two friends from fighting.
Is it any good?
The movie industry has long indulged in remaking older movies. With occasional exceptions, this has been a disaster. It's not hard to see why: if the original movie was worth remaking, it was probably pretty darn good to begin with, and the update usually loses the qualities that made the original a classic. Fortunately, this trend has mostly been confined to film -- until now. Tony DiTerlizzi, half of the team that created the original and delightful Spiderwick Chronicles has chosen to rewrite and re-illustrate the classic The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame (whose most famous book is the classic The Wind in the Willows), and illustrated by Ernest Shepard (famed for his brilliant drawings for Winnie-the-Pooh).
For reasons best known to himself, DiTerlizzi's update includes changing all the characters to animals -- perhaps he just enjoys drawing them more. He also includes many references to The Reluctant Dragon, including naming the main character Kenny, the dragon Grahame, the hill where they live Shepard Hill, and even working in a direct mention of the original book. Standing on its own, this story is pleasant and enjoyable. As a remake of the earlier book, however, it's both unnecessary and lacking in the charm (not to mention originality of concept) that made Grahame/Shepard's book so appealing. The original is still in print (alas, there are many newer editions done by other illustrators -- look for the edition with the original, delightfully insouciant Shepard drawings that so clearly show the virtues of simplicity) -- so why not get it instead?
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about this idea of remaking someone else's book. Why would an author do it? Is it OK if he acknowledges it? Is it copying or a way of showing admiration? Children who read this might be interested in reading the earlier version and comparing the two. Why would a modern author think the older book needs to be rewritten?