The Dragon Players, the second book in Frank Cammuso's Knights of the Lunch Table series is scheduled for release this September. I got a chance to review a preview copy this month and it's a great sequel to the first book, The Dodgeball Chronicles. The version I got to read had a great color cover and a few pages in color (but the rest in black and white). The released version will be all in color and based on the color I saw, it will certainly be another bang-up job from Scholastic's GRAPHIX imprint.
First off – this book really is aimed at children, but not down to children. I'm not 100% sure of the age range; my daughter is 6 and she's loved both books in the series. My daughter loves comics already and she was inspired to write a fan letter to Cammuso after reading The Dragon Players (haven't heard back yet from Mr. Cammuso yet!). She's a pretty sophisticated reader for her age, however, so I'm sure readers several years older would still find this very engaging (okay the book itself says Ages 9-12 and grades 4-7; hmm, that sounds about right, certainly 9-10 seems a good fit. I don't see anything in here that a 7-8 year old couldn't handle though, so long as they have a bit of an attention span).
This book returns us to the world of Artie King — which is sort of a mirror of Arthurian legends translated to the school yard. In the last book Artie opened the eternally stuck but magic locker (his sword in the stone) and in this book, his science teacher Mr. Merlyn returns to help him and his pals with the school's Dragon Days robot contest. Facing them again are the school bullies (known as the "Horde") which forces Artie to turn for help to Evo, a former winner of the contest. It's another fast-paced tale where Artie overcomes adversity through ingenuity and a little help from others.
Why both of these books work — and I suspect work especially well for boys too — are simply the subjects: the first book had dodgeball and the second fighting robots. The stakes aren't really that high for the characters (okay, getting the threat of getting beat up or other threats from the bullies isn't so great, but this isn't Harry Potter) but the subjects are very plausible for the readers to imagine themselves in. Artie is a likeable, but not ultimately not that distinctive a main character; again pretty easy for the reader to place themselves mentally in Artie's part of the story.
Moreover, Cammuso is a really good cartoonist. The art here is active, entertaining and a lot of times just plain funny. This is a good book. If you've got a young kid (or a library to stock!) keep an eye out for it next month.
NOTE: Scholastic Publishing provided a free copy of this book for review purposes.