Jousting with Jesters

by An ABC for the Younger Dragon. Text & illustration by Martin Springett
32 pages,
ISBN: 1551433273

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Kids' Lit
by OR Melling

"Beware of barons bringing broadswords to breakfast."

Alphabet books are a wonderful way to introduce letters to small children while also providing pleasant activity time with them, especially when the book appeals to the adult as well. Martin Springett's first authored and illustrated work is guaranteed to do just that. His artwork is well-known from the covers of many Canadian fantasy novels, in particular his iconic jackets of the early editions of Guy Gavriel Kay's best-selling series, the Fionavar Tapestry. In evidence here is the same classical yet distinctive style, intricate detail, fanciful images, and glorious colours.

"Leap lightly over lolling leprechauns. "

Both adult and child will pore over the pictures again and again. Indeed, Springett encourages such scrutiny with a challenge to his readers to find objects in each page beginning with the featured letter. (Words are listed on both publisher's and author's websites.)

"Speak special spells speedily."

The book tells the tale of Dennis the dragon, newly hatched from the egg and in search of his flame. Accompanied by the protean jester of the title, the little dragon sets out on a quest for knowledge, maturity, and the fire of life. His adventures take him through a magical, humorous, and sometimes challenging world of dwarves, elves, fairies, friendly animals, gnomes, magicians, poets, trolls, and more.

"Unyoke the unruly unicorn!"

There are two magnificent double-page spreads for the letter Q¨"Queue quietly for queenly quests"¨which are truly exQuisite. Petitioners from previous pages line up before a golden-gowned queen sitting in her ornate hall. All the major scenes are also enhanced with miniature tableaus; in one instance, a frog can be seen having tea with two imps on a tree trunk within the greater image of a troll stalking past a medieval castle.
The overall benign and gentle tone is ideal for bedtime and likely to encourage sweet dreams. The book itself has been praised by no less a luminary in children's literature than Pauline Baynes, the original illustrator of the Chronicles of Narnia. ˛

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