Vernon, Ursula. Knight-napped! (Dragonbreath #10)
December 4th 2014 by Dial Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Danny is minding his own business when a pigeon comes and repeatedly sits on his head. It takes his friends Wendell and Christina to help him figure out that the pigeon is carrying a message, and when he reads it, he finds out that his annoying little cousin Spencer has been captured by the knights at Castle Wanderpol, the inhabitants of which are distantly related to Christina. Soon, the three have secured permission to spend the night with "Christina's cousins" and are on the very good bus system to the castle in Austria! There, Christina worms her way into the castle, but Wendell and Danny are on their own, hopping into the moat from the dungeon, scaling the tower walls, and trying to rescue Spencer. Unfortunately, Spencer is supposed to be used as a test to prove the young knight's ability to fight dragons, and Danny is worried that both of their heads will wind up mounted in the library! Can they all survive? And will the bus system get them back home before they are in trouble?
Strengths: These books are always delightfully funny, hitting both the target demographic's funny bone as well as my own. Danny and his friends go about their adventures with humor and good will; quite the difference between this and the vast majority of the depressing middle grade books that have been published yesterday. Essential for elementary schools, and highly desirable for middle schools as well!
Weaknesses: Horrible paper-over-board bindings that don't hold up to library use. And while I am grateful that these are amusing books, I am quickly losing patience with 12-year-olds who will ONLY read books with pictures in them. Graphic novels and notebook novels are fine in moderation, as is everything, but this year I have a large population of students who just flat out refuse to read "chapter books" and just reread Wimpy Kid over and over.
Any thoughts on how to gently encourage reluctant readers to take a look at other books?