Not ready for Harry Potter: Short fantasy

The new Harry Potter movie comes out this weekend — and next week, we’ll see more kids, even younger ones, coming to the library to ask for the books.   The movie looks totally cool, so they’re eager to check out the books — until they realize they’re 700 pages long, with NO PICTURES!

Fascinated by fantasy, but not-quite-ready-for-Hogwarts in terms of page commitment and plot complexity?  This series is magical, funny, and a LOT shorter.

Dragon Slayers AcademyDragon Slayers’ Academy series, by Kate McMullan
#1 The New Kid at School (lexile: 500; AR book level: 3.3; 92 pp)

If you want a serious fantasy about dragons … well, this ain’t* it.  If you want a funny series with a would-be-dragon slayer who doesn’t like violence, a princess who’d rather be a knight, a talking pig, and a wizard whose spells never work quite right … Dragon Slayers’ Academy (DSA) is the place to be.

The first book introduces young Wiglaf, who lives with his family in a one-room hovel that smells worse than their pigsty.  Wiggie’s 12 brothers are big oafs, but he is small and so sensitive he won’t even squish a cockroach.  Wiglaf ends up doing all the work around the house, like slopping the pigs and washing the dishes.

At the prompting of a wandering minstrel, Wiglaf sets off with his faithful pig, Daisy, to seek his fortune by enrolling at DSA to learn to be a hero.  It turns out DSA isn’t quite as advertised — the greedy headmaster is more into getting gold than cranking out heroes, and Wiglaf only gets in because he’s a whizz at washing dishes.   Still, on his first day he’s sent out to slay the dragon Gorzil.  His cowardly magic sword Surekill doesn’t do him any good, but he discovers the dragon’s secret weakness and saves the day.

Subsequent titles follow the adventures of Wiglaf and his classmates at DSA, and at least the first few should be read in order to get the background on plot and characters.  The stories move quickly, and the quirky characters and funny details grab kids’ attention.  (Be sure to read the excerpts from the DSA Yearbook at the end.)  These are great for beginning chapter-book readers or family read-alouds.

  1. The New Kid at School
  2. Revenge of the Dragon Lady
  3. Class Trip to the Cave of Doom
  4. A Wedding for Wiglaf?
  5. Knight For a Day
  6. Sir Lancelot, Where Are You?
  7. Wheel of Misfortune
  8. Countdown to the Year 1000
  9. 97 Ways to Train a Dragon
  10. Help! It’s Parents Day at DSA
  11. Danger! Wizard at Work
  12. The Ghost of Sir Herbert Dungeonstone
  13. Beware! It’s Friday The 13th!
  14. Pig Latin–Not Just for Pigs!
  15. Double Dragon Trouble
  16. World’s Oldest Living Dragon
  17. Hail! Hail! Camp Dragononka!
  18. Never Trust a Troll!
  19. Little Giant – Big Trouble
  20. School’s Out … Forever!

*This is my blog, and I can use “ain’t” if I want to.

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