Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Secret Weakness of Dragons


The four stories in The Secret Weakness of Dragons may be billed as fairy tales, but they have more in common with O. Henry than with the brothers Grimm. Although couched in the language of fairy tales, the stories are surprisingly sophisticated and each one contains an unexpected twist or surprise ending.

It's hard to describe the stories without giving away too much about them. They're best appreciated like presents to be unwrapped, savoring the surprise inside. Each story is unique, and even the writing style varies to fit the story. One reads like a traditional fairy tale, one is written in the form of a diary, and the last story, "Moblos Tells the Tale of How Our World Came To Be," is reminiscent of Kipling's Just So Stories.

The Secret Weakness of Dragons will probably be best enjoyed by middle-grade children, who can appreciate the irony and humor in the stories, yet these children may shy away from reading the book thinking that they are too sophisticated for "fairy tales." An astute teacher or librarian might introduce these stories by reading them aloud to a class.

Younger children will probably also enjoy these stories as read-alouds, although they might not get all the nuances, and the third story, "The Diary of Uno Duo," may need to be explained to them. Also, there is one part of "A True Love Manifest" that may be upsetting to younger children, at least until the end.

The book is small, but has a classy feel to it. It's attractively designed, illustrated with pen and ink drawings, and printed on a nice linen paper.

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