Thomas and the Dragon Queen, a lively middle-grade novel, has knights, castles, mighty war horses, princesses and dragons. The reader starts out thinking they know what they are getting from a book with those ingredients, but Crum turns almost every one of those characters and plot devices on their ears. So much fun!
Thomas is the eldest of nine children. His father is a leather-worker who once went to the castle to train to be a knight. But, because he did not come from a land-owning family, Thomas’s father was not allowed to become a knight. He returned home to take up the work of a saddle maker, get married and raise a family.
Thomas is kind and good natured toward his siblings. He not only helps look after them, he entertains them by acting out his Dad’s stories of brave and noble knights and their adventures.
Thomas dreams of becoming a knight, but at the age of 12 he is the size of most 7-year-olds. In a world of border wars, battle swords and big, strong men, his size is a real barrier to success; because of his small size, no armor will fit him, he cannot lift a regulation sword and he cannot mount a war horse.
Thomas doesn’t let his tiny size stop him. I won’t give away the rest of the story, but he has some surprising adventures and finds out that he has plenty of strengths and talents, despite his obvious challenges.
This story will speak to any reader who has felt that their difference is making them the butt of someone’s joke and getting in the way of what they want to do. One of the things I love about Thomas is that he acknowledges his feelings of hurt and anger when his fellow squires make fun of him, but he also makes a conscious decision to not let that stop him from doing what he knows needs doing.
Shutta Crum is an imaginative, fun-loving story teller and I hope she had as much fun writing this as I did reading it. Crum mostly writes picture books, but she has another novel, Spitting Image, which is now on my reading list.