book reviews by Althea

Dragons at Crumbling Castle – Terry Pratchett ***

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When Terry Pratchett was a young man, he worked at a newspaper. These short and humorous stories were published in that paper, The ‘Bucks Free Press’ as part of their ‘Children’s Circle’ page. They’re a wonderful glimpse into the early development of a writer – but they’re also wholly enjoyable on their own merits.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: The title story is a charming and punny, if not altogether unfamiliar-feeling, tale of a quest to slay some dragons who turn out to be more congenial than expected. (LOL, the Sports Page.)

Hercules the Tortoise: If you ever happen to have a child whose pet turtle goes missing after being let out to crawl around the yard – this is the perfect story for that moment.

The Great Speck: A simple yet very true analogy about cooperation vs. nationalism and one-upmanship. And a story about the two nations resident on a floating dust mote going to visit a passing, neighboring dust mote.

Hunt the Snorry: Basically, an extended joke with a pretty funny punchline, making fun of Great Hunts and glorious quests.

Tales of the Carpet People: Pratchett fans who’ve read his recently re-published first novel “The Carpet People” will be familiar with the characters here. I actually think the conceit works better in a shorter format.

Dok the Caveman: The Dawn of Civilization, according to Pratchett.

The Big Race: Have you ever wondered why we use gasoline-guzzling cars, rather than steam-powered ones? Here’s Pratchett’s theory.

Another Tale of the Carpet People: Here, the Carpet People set out on a voyage of exploration (with certain parallels to the storybook conception of Columbus’ famous voyage) and ‘discover’ the Rug.

The Egg-Dancing Championship: A small-town folktale of rivalries surrounding two neighboring villages’ (rather silly) traditonal contest.

Edwo the Boring Knight: Edwo may be boring (in fact, he bores a dragon stiff – literally), but this story of a youngest son off to seek his fortune, is not.

The 59A Bus Goes Back in Time: A typical London bus takes a most unusual route…

The Abominable Snowman: A funny spoof of the traditional style of British Scientific Expedition to Foreign Parts (and the British tradition of package holidays).

The Blackbury Monster: The mayor of a sleepy small town comes up with an innovative way to attract tourism: pretend there’s a monster in the lake. However, the fallout from his scheme isn’t quite what he expected.

Father Christmas Gets A Job: In today’s job market, even our much-beloved Santa Claus might find he’s not very ’employable.’

Many thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read this collection. As always, my opinions are my own.


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