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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 14, 2012
Reading books to children is an endangered activity in our present culture. The books that publishers are still printing for children seem more and more to be competing with movies, video games and noisy toys for market share (books with flaps, buttons, touchy-feely patches, sounds, hologram pictures, and books that are just a repackaging of some still shots from the latest animated movie). Many children's books have gone the way of most Hollywood movies, using big special effects and eye candy to make money rather than trusting to story and characters to draw in the hearts and minds of the audience. So in a world like ours at a time like this, it is refreshing to come across a story like this. This is a solid retelling of the classic tale of valiant St. George of England battling an evil dragon to save a princess and her kingdom from fear and destruction. Of course the fight is fierce (boys love that part) but George triumphs and wins the hand of the princess (girls love that part).

As with all good stories, this one appeals on multiple levels. The youngest children will be captivated by the detailed and rich illustrations and artwork on every page. Kids of all ages (and their parents) will be engaged by the story and characters themselves taken at face value. This story lends itself to teaching children the virtues of courage, perseverance, self-sacrifice, generosity and keeping your word. And, as with the original tale, there is the Christian symbolism present but not overdone (no where does the author come out and connect the dots for the reader). We have a lot of good books in our home but this is one our 3, 5 and 7 year olds all regularly pull out and ask us to "read it again".
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This book was a Caldecott Medal winner as the best illustrated children's book in 1987. You will never see a finer set of modern simulations of a Middle Ages illuminated manuscript. The full range of the rainbow is vividly and brilliantly worked into almost every illustration. On text pages, the illuminations surround the words while on illustrated pages, they fill across the whole page -- border and all.
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!
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on June 28, 2011
My son (who was 6 when I originally purchased it and is now 7) adores this book.
The story is ideal for children still in the veil. If you understand this term, then you know what I mean. The pictures are engaging, the story seemingly "just right" - no need for too much drama, as their innocence is still there (or often, at this time in life the yearning to keep what they had as a "little kid" {their innocence} is there and will dive into a simpler story that feeds the soul). In saying that, this time in their lives they need more, they need the story to supply some of the answers along with the dilemma - they don't always want to look to us at this time in their life; they need - deeply - to find their own way and what better way to begin than with story?
If we present the story in a magical way (even memorizing some of it so we can look them in the eyes during the story), it will not matter if it doesn't do anything for the adult reading it - it's not supposed to feed our soul (we've had our time), it's for theirs.
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on July 12, 2004
Adapted from Spenser's Faerie Queene, this is a highly literate children's tale. We meet the Red Cross Knight as he is heading into his first adventure. Princess Una has sought him as champion for her parents in fighting the usual terrorizing dragon. The plot is the usual one: boy meets girl, girl tells boy how royal parents are being terrorized by a dragon. Boy slays dragon, marries princess. Though this story does not stray from the formula, it is realized in a very fine fashion and richly illustrated. Each of some dozen pairs of facing pages has fantastic illustrations on one side with a few paragraphs of text on the other. The illustrations are among the best I've seen, they rank together with Child of Faerie Child of Earth and Fairy Wings. Each illustrated page is nicely framed and usually filled with thematic marginal drawings, which is a very nice touch.
I think this is probably the most literate children's book I've read. The first line of most pages always includes some brief alliteration, beginning with the opening lines.
>In the days when monsters and giants and fairy folk lifvind in England, a noble knight was riding across a plain.
>The dreadful dragon was the cause of her sorrow.
>After many days the path became thorny and led up to a steep hillside, where a good old hermit lived in a little house by himself.
>It is time for me to tell you that you were not born of fairy folk, but of English earth.
>Then they heard a hideous roaring that filled the air with terror and seemed to shake the ground.
>The knight brandished his bright blade, and it seemed sharper than ever, his hands even stronger.
There is just enough to create the effect without going overboard. Sometimes, at key points, the alliteration is stepped up to alert the reader to pay attention.
>In his tail's end, two sharp stings were fixed. But sharper still were his cruel claws. Whatever he touched or drew within those claws was in deadly danger. His head was more hideous than tongue can tell, for his deep jaws gaped wide, showing three rows of iron teeth read to devour his prey.
There are also instances of anaphora
>Once more the Red Cross Knight mounted and attacked the dragon. Once more in vain.
internal rhyme
>Yet the beast had never before felt such a mighty stroke from the hand of any man, and he was furious for revenge.
and Homeric similes.
>Like a sailor long at sea, under stormy winds and fierce sun, who begins to whistle merrily when he sees land, so Una was thankful.
These are all tropes I would have pointed out when I was teaching Medieval and Renaissance Lit. and are spread thinly enough not to be over done. They are in fact very appropriate to the material, being standard Anglo-Saxon techniques. The surrounding prose is also extremely well written. There were only three alliterations which I felt were overdone, but-hey-that's also true for equivalent portions of Beowulf!
I can't think of a better introduction to the dragonslayer genre.
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on August 20, 2002
Hyman won a Caldecott Medal for this book and there is no questioning why. The wonderful drawings tell the story with splendid detail. Bordering the text are more drawings that help to establish the setting and mood of the story. The text is even more exciting than the illustrations. A brave knight is summoned by a beautiful princess to slay the dragon that has been tormenting the land of the fairy queen. After several battles and assistance from magical entities, the knight defeats his foe and is granted the princess as a prize. There can be quite a lot of text on a single page causing it to be overwhelming in its lack of white space. The narrative is fast-paced enough that the reader will stay interested though. This book should be on an independent level for high second graders. Younger children will enjoy hearing it and seeing the pictures though.
Why 5 stars?:
I simply love the mythical magic of dragons. The illustrations included in this version are gorgeous. The story can be understood and enjoyed by children of all ages. Second graders should be able to read this book with just some slight assistance.
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on March 11, 2003
I am a fan of fantasy, and this children's book delivers a great fantasy story complete with mystical objects, mystical creatures, love, and heavy conflict. The book boils down to one of the long-heard "dragon-slaying-stories". This is very well written adventure making it a wonderful fantasy short-story. The pictures are nothing short of stunning. From the frame artwork of dancing sprites, angels, and knights to the giant dragon who's glamour has trouble fitting into a single page.
This is a book where I would've given an extra half-star. While this book is great for adults to read and enjoy, its intended audience might not be able to enjoy it to its fullest. The story is complex enough to make the reader have to achieve a certain age to be able to completely understand what is going on. There also are some scenes with mild to medium bloodshed.
All in all, a great book to read, and I would highly recommend it.
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on May 27, 1999
This children's book is a retelling of the story from "The Faerie Queen" by Edmund Spencer (c. 1552-1599) about the Red Cross knight George (who really lived and who died about 303 A. D.). The Red Cross Knight (the basis of the red cross in the Union Jack) accompanies the Princess Una and succeeds in slaying a dragon that had been besieging the castle of Una's father. Teachers may consider recalling for their classes that Spenser's tale is allegorical in nature in which George represented the Church, Una represented Truth, and the dragon represented Error. This can lead to discussions of other works of literature. The book was beautifully illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman and it won the 1985 Caldecott Medal for best illustration in a children's book. Children always seem to enjoy reading this story.
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on March 15, 2002
The book is a great read for upper elementary students, although younger ones will enjoy the story if read to them.
The pages are filled with dynamic images of the dragon and the knight's confrontations with the savage creature. The knight, the princess, and other characters conform to accepted and commonly perceived appearances of persons in European fairytales.
The theme of perseverance is easily recognizable with its simple text.
Children should read this book because it provides the legend that is the basis for many other literary works. Students should be able to draw comparisons between this story and other adaptations, be they printed or in other forms.
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on November 7, 2000
When I was 7, my family moved to Georgia (I'm an Air Force brat); our library in Georgia had a copy of Saint George and the Dragon. Until we moved when I was 10, I checked this book out repeatedly, read it repeatedly, traced the illustrations repeatedly, and fell asleep with it, only to check it out again on our next trip to the library. I am now 14, and about to get this book for my 5 (almost 6) year old brother. Raised on Narnia, Middle Earth, and Fairy Land, I am a firm believer in dragons, unicorns, faery, gnomes, and an even firmer believer in their place in childrens books. This is a beautiful, beautiful book, the kind of book every child deserves.
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on August 19, 2000
When this book was first published I was six years old, and at the time I thought it was the most enchanting, beautiful book in the world. My sister recently bought it for her children, who are three and six respectively, and they practically exult in the hero's triumph over the dragon. When I was reading it to my neice and reached the part where the dragon's tail is cut off, she pointed at the picture and said a sympathizing "oww" for the dragon, but in no way was she terrified or grossed out. Maybe it is not right for children with weak stomachs, but normal children, and especially day dreamers, will find it bewitching and inspiring.
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