Week 2: Saint George and the Dragon

Book summary: Once upon a time, faeries stole a baby from his crib and left him in a field for a farmer to raise. This baby, whom the farmer called George, was destined to grow into a brave knight who would save England. Adapted from Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, this re-telling of the epic poem will likely have young readers on the edge of their seats, wanting to know the outcome of George’s battle with the terrible dragon. The beautiful illustrations, which earned Trina Schart Hyman a Caldecott Medal, depict the unfolding story in rich colors, and frame the text in a stained glass style.

My impressions: I’m sure part of why I love this book is simply because I love fairy tales, epic adventures, and knights in shining armour. Plus it’s much easier to read a children’s version of an epic poem, than the real epic poem. I also like the message of persevering to fulfill a promise, rather than taking the easy road to a pretty ending. Something that makes this particular re-telling so great are the pictures –  it’s no wonder Hyman won a Caldecott Medal for them. They have beautiful colors and striking details, and the styling after stained glass windows reminds me of so many movies and books set in the Medieval period.

Citation: Hodges, M. (1984). Saint George and the dragon. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Professional review:

“Gr 3 Up – Hodges capably retells the legend of St. George and the Dragon, a popular and well-known fragment from Spenser’s Faerie Queen. She has made it a coherent, palatable story suitable for a wide range of ages. The action is fast-paced and immediate – George, the Red Cross Knight, sent questing by the Queen of Fairies, accompanies the princess Una back to her father’s kingdom to slay the dragon that besets it or die in the attempt. After the traditional three attempts he succeeds, and everyone lives happily ever after. This retelling is more than adequate, and Hyman’s illustrations are uniquely suited to this outrageously romantic and appealing legend. Fairies and unicorns interwine with cross-emblazoned shields and red-winged angels in the borders. The paintings are richly colored, lush, detailed and dramatic. Hyman’s dragon is appropriately ferocious; her hero is appropriately brave; and her princess – bless her – is a redhead, not a blond. This is a beautifully crafted book, a fine combination of author and illustrator.”

Del Negro, J. M. (January 1985). Saint George and the Dragon [Review of]. School Library Journal, 31(5), 76.

Library uses: For story time, I would include this with some music from the Medieval or Renaissance periods. For a craft, the children could write a poem or draw a picture on card stock, then we could frame it with wax paper “stained glass” by layering crayon shavings between sheets of wax paper, and using the hair dryer to melt it.

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