I was very excited to find this on the shelf at my home library on a summer visit with the kids – we all loved the first book, Giants Beware!
Dragons Beware! By Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado. First Second, 2015.
Claudette is seriously tired of life at home and ready for some more action when a new opportunity arises: the possibility of taking revenge on the dragon that ate her father’s legs and his sword. Also, an evil wizard that everyone thought was gone for good has shown up again, handily freezing anyone who tries to attack him. Of course the adults won’t give her permission to go, but that never stopped anyone as determined as Claudette. Her little brother Gaston and her best friend Marie naturally come along as well. Gaston has decided to give up cooking, his true passion, in favor of trying to learn the manly art of sword-smithing – much to the regret of everyone in his household. Marie, meanwhile, is followed by an entire entourage of princes and nobles seeking to win her favor and willing to do whatever it takes to earn it.
This is another fabulous story – a wonderful combination of danger, comedy, and messages that would have been unexpected if I hadn’t read the first books already. Claudette goes off wanting to smite and mostly expecting Marie and Gaston to be there for moral support. But smiting alone will not win the day, and Marie and Gaston both have to use all their skills to help win the day. I love the big-headed, small-bodied characters as they are drawn, full of energy and expression. I don’t expect a lot of diversity in a traditional European fantasy like this, but besides Claudette and Gaston’s father leading a very active life from his wheelchair, his best friend is Black. Claudette is one of the rare heroines these days who doesn’t have long eyelashes, bows or pink – that’s all left to Marie. The drawings don’t even make it clear if she’s wearing a shortish dress or a tunic and leggings. Gaston, meanwhile, clearly feels pressure to be more traditionally masculine, but the story makes it clear that both he and everyone around him are better off letting be and do what he does best.
I don’t know that my kids consciously picked up on any of these messages, because it’s just so much fun. Everyone in the house, though, from the five-year-old up through my husband, read it with great enjoyment. These rank with our favorite adventure graphic novels for kids, also including Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke, Mouseguard by David Peterson and Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson.