• Picturebook Snob

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes

Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights by Steven Lenton, Nosy Crow

"I know you put me in a tower to keep me safe from harm, but princesses can do much more than curtsey, dance and charm."

What's it about?

"The trouble with most fairy tales, is that they sound the same..." Thus begins this terrific tale, which couldn't be more different to traditional stories featuring distressed damsels in need of rescue. A king dispatches three of his best knights to destroy a dragon, promising riches and his daughter Daisy's hand in marriage to whomever succeeds.

Aware that the knights are idiots, and preferring a more humane approach, Daisy tries to get involved, but is told to "go sew instead." As the pompous and incompetent knights spectacularly fail at their quest, a mysterious and brave hero appears. Riding a cow and wearing homemade armour, which includes a colander, they set everything right and give everyone an enormous surprise when their identity is revealed.

What can we learn?

It's easy to be misunderstood and to misunderstand others, everyone can be a hero and looks are often deceiving. Whether it's an apparently fragile princess or a dragon that seems fierce, we shouldn't underestimate or judge anyone based on their appearance. It's important to use empathy when approaching a conflict, and sometimes all that's needed to solve a problem is to consider it from a different perspective.

What makes this stand out? Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights is a fresh and original twist on conventional stories of conquering knights. Not only does it promote pacifism and kindness, it's fabulously feminist too. The story is genius and filled with humour, and I love the illustrations.

About those illustrations...

I've mentioned this before, but I'm a HUGE fan of Steven Lenton. His work is always so animated, full of amusing details and ever so slightly eccentric, with a charming, retro quality.

I love comic elements like the expressions of Sir Musclebound's horse, the hedgehog he tips instead of his hat, and the terrified kitten in the sandwich-trap.

Sir Daring-do preening in the mirror, the king's rollers, and Sir Brainbox's collection of spare glasses perched atop his head are brilliant touches too. I was delighted when Sir Brainbox's cruel dragon-baiting contraption backfired on him. It's so funny when the mysterious hero rides in on a cow. All the townsfolk in the background are excellent and the king is always hilarious.

Why we love it...

It's clever and subversive and challenges stereotypes about gender, dragons, princesses and knights. Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights demonstrates why we should try our best, even if we don't have all the right equipment. It shows how it's important to stand by our beliefs, even if we risk looking silly. It's a laugh-out-loud reading experience powered by a fantastic, lively rhyming text which enriches the fairy tale atmosphere. I love how a story book is instrumental in resolving the conflict and how this subtly celebrates the magic of reading too.

Why you need it...

Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights manages to be massively entertaining and incredibly thought-provoking at the same time. This is a wonderful exploration of and compassion and equality, with a message that's as beautiful as the gorgeous illustrations.

About the author & illustrator: Steven Lenton is one of our favourite artists. He also illustrated The Nothing to see Here Hotel, which won the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award and was shortlisted for a Lollie's Laugh Out Loud Award. Head Kid won the WHSmith’s Children’s Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the National Book Awards. We adore Octopus Shocktopus, The Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Great Diamond Chase, which were all illustrated by Steven. Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights is one of the first books Steven wrote in addition to creating the artwork. He is the author and illustrator of Let's Find Fred and a new series called Genie and Teeny. This launches in April 2021 and I can't wait to get hold of it. Steven has a new picture book out soon with Rachel Morrisroe too - How to Grow a Unicorn releases in June and looks amazing.

Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights was published by Nosy Crow in 2015 - see this book on the publisher's website

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