Book review: Dragon Slayers

How do you raise a kid to be a moral and spiritual person?  That’s a question I think about often, particularly as my kids get older.  And I’ve recently come across one terrific resource to help in the process. It’s a book for kids called Dragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide For Young Dragon Fighters, Based Wholly on the Practices of the Great Dragon Slayers of Old and the Wisdom of their Ancient Manual.  (Whew!).

I’ll admit, when I first got this book as a review copy from the nice folks at Paraclete Press, I didn’t know what to expect.  It’s a largeish paperback, with a black cover with a very cool red-foil-embossed symbol of a warrior.  The pages inside are colorful and illustrated and made to resemble parchment paper.  And all this is totally in keeping with the focus of the book, which is a guide on how to be a Dragon Slayer — in other words, how to be a good person who knows how to defeat dragons (vices).

And really, it’s a pretty groovy concept.  The book is told from the point of view of Sir Wyvern Pugilist, himself an expert dragon slayer.  He tells young apprentices how to recognize certain dragons, each of whom has a wonderfully evocative name and specializes in a certain weakness (Cringe Liver leads you into fear; Braggen into boastfulness; Avarus into greed; etc.)  Sir Wyvern gives a detailed description of each dragon, explaning how it ambushes you, but also how you can defeat it by using certain bits of Armor (the Shield of Faith; the Belt of Truth; the Boots of Peace).   These pieces of armor are described in detail, with a great drawing of a knight all suited up, and there is a Scripture passage to correspond to each one.

In fact, what’s nice about the book is that the author uses passages from Scripture throughout (though the Bible here is referred to as the Ancient Manual, and Jesus is the Chief Dragon Slayer).  This makes the book a painless way for kids to engage with the Bible and to see its relevance to their own lives.

Another great feature of this book is the section called Compendium of Senior Dragon Slayers of Old, in which the author shares the stories of real-life people who lived inspiring lives.  They include saints like Francis of Assisi, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Saint Peter, as well as people like Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King, Jr.  What I love is how the author tells each person’s story through the lens of the “dragons” that he or she had to slay — pride, greed, fear, sloth, etc.  It’s a terrific way to introduce kids to the saints, and to realize that they were real people who also had to battle against their own weaknesses.

And though the subject matter is pretty serious, what makes this book  great is that the narrator’s voice is so chatty and humorous.  This keeps the book from being overly pious, keeping it fresh and lively.  And seriously, kids will learn a lot from this.  The back of the book suggests that it is for children ages 9-12, but if a kid is a good reader he/she could enjoy it at seven or eight.   It could also be a great book for parents to read aloud to their kids.

My boys are too young to read this right now, but believe me, I’ll be saving it for them to discover in a few years.  It’s a perfect way for kids to engage in their faith in a spirit of adventure and fun. And what little boy doesn’t want to be a Dragon Slayer?

Note that Paraclete Press has also published a study guide for teachers/youth ministers/discussion leaders who want to use this book with a group.  You could also use the guide to direct your own conversations with your kids.

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