Reviews for New Kid at School


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 December 1997
Gr. 3^-6. McMullan launches a promising tongue-in-cheek fantasy series featuring a would-be dragon slayer with an aversion to violence; young Wiglaf of Pinwick leaves his family and with his beloved pig, Daisy, sets off to enroll in the Dragon Slayers Academy. Almost immediately, he is sent off with bloodthirsty classmate Eric, plus a bent and, as it turns out, cowardly magic sword, optimistically named Surekill, to do battle with Gorzil the dragon. Gorzil happens to be no easy mark, but after Eric is disarmed, Wiglaf discovers the monster's secret weakness (every dragon has one): knock-knock jokes. Fortunately, the young hero has a seemingly inexhaustible supply, and soon Gorzil is dragon dust. McMullan creates an appealing, unwarlike protagonist, with the inner stuff to cope with situations both daffy and dangerous, and gives him a colorful, somehow familiar supporting cast that includes Daisy, who acquires the ability to speak pig latin, and Eric, who is really Erica, as in "Princess Erica, daughter of Queen Barb and King Ken," in disguise. Readers will laugh out loud at the cleverest, most manic kickoff since Scieszka's Knights of the Kitchen Table (1991). Illustrations not seen. ((Reviewed December 1, 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 1998
Wiglaf leaves his loutish family to enter the Dragon Slayers' Academy. The school is not all it's cracked up to be, but even so Wiglaf manages to slay a terrible dragon by discovering its weakness; he kills it with knock-knock jokes. The humor is broad and slapstick, and there is essentially no characterization or setting, just fast-paced plot and thin farce with dark, caricature-like illustrations. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1997 October #1
This first episode of McMullan's (Nutcracker Noel) Dragon Slayers' Academy series is a silly, good-natured spoof on tymes of olde when dragon slaying was the chosen pastime of the bravest hearts. When a minstrel befriends young Wiglaf, he relates tales of a fearful dragon and bequeaths to the boy a though he can't recall the words that will activate its power. Before wandering off, he predicts that the boy will one day be a "mighty hero." Wiglaf then spies a notice advertising a school with just the classes he needs to achieve that lofty status (e.g., How to Stalk a Fire-Breather and 101 Ways to Slay). He and a classmate eventually best a beast by discovering its secret weakness: an intolerance for bad jokes. This caper, at its most comical moments, incorporates Monty Python-esque slapstick and language ("We shall go thitherward to carry out our plan!"); it also sinks to some gratuitous grossness (slime from Gorzil's nose "spattered on the ground in greasy yellow puddles") and over-the-edge inanity (Wiglaf's dragon-slaying crony, Eric, confesses he is actually Princess Erica, daughter of Queen Barb and King Ken). Children will have a few phrases to groan over, yet plenty to chuckle about with these Arthurian-era antics. A second volume, Revenge of the Dragon Lady, is due in November. Ages 7-10. (Oct.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1998 May
A fantasy adventure for beginning chapter-book readers. Wiglaf, the would-be hero, lives with his large, brutish family in abject poverty. Their hovel smells worse than their pigsty. Though Wiglaf is the smallest member of the family, he is made to do all the work, and is constantly picked on by the others because he is reluctant to kill any living thing. A traveling minstrel tells Wiglaf's fortune; it shows that he can improve his lot by performing a gallant act. The boy decides to sign up at the local Dragon Slayers' Academy it guarantees to make him a hero. However, he finds life at the run-down school as difficult as it is at home, and he protests when he is sent out to slay the local dragon on his first day. When his magic sword doesn't work, he switches to another strategy. He has learned that the dragon can't stand bad jokes so he tries a few and, as predicted, the dragon expires at his feet. Wiglaf is a hero without spilling a single drop of blood. The fast-paced, snappy text is filled with jokes and insults; the accompanying black-and-white illustrations are dark and cartoonlike. The tone and style suggest Saturday-morning animated films and will appeal to the same audience. For humorous adventure fantasy that is better crafted and more nourishing, try Jon Scieszka's Knights of the Kitchen Table (Viking, 1991) and other works in the "Time Warp Trio" series. Virginia Golodetz, Children's Literature New England, Burlington, VT Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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