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The New Kid at School by Kate McMullan
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The New Kid at School (1997)

by Kate McMullan

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Though intended for young children, this series is oddly addicting. I would never borrow them from the library myself- not quite that exciting- but when my brother brings them home I find myself borrowing them before he realizes quite what's happened. Interesting, in a casual sort of way. ( )
  jerenda | Jan 20, 2016 |
This beginning reader chapter book grew on me as I read. The story is a campy tale about a hapless young boy, Wiglaf, who is an outsider in his family. The rest of his brothers are as strapping as they are stupid, like their father, and they mock Wiglaf for his sensitive heart. Wiglaf is the only one that stands up for the wandering minstrel who comes to their house, starving and desperate, and secures him a rather unpleasant spot to rest his head in their hovel. Before resuming his wanderings, the minstrel predicts that Wiglaf will someday be a mighty hero.

The oppressed boy finds this unlikely, until he and his family spy an advertisement on their way to market. It is calling for able-bodied boys to join the dragon slayers' academy, and earn their families mountains of gold. Although Wiglaf's family doubt he is up to the challenge, none of their other sons are willing to try, and they figure if Wiglaf doesn't come home with piles of money, he probably won't come home at all, which is just as well. Wiglaf is excited to start his journey to become a hero, but the academy is not what he expected. The castle is run-down, and the cafeteria mainly serves dishes using the eels they can fish out of the moat. The teachers are either well past their prime, like old Sir Mort du Mort who can barely finish a sentence without being distracted, or suspiciously lacking in real world experience, like Coach Plungett, who is most passionate about slaying dragons when they are made of wood and stuffing. Wiglaf isn't sure how well he is doing. At the end of his first day, however, Wiglaf is sent off to kill a dragon, mainly because the greedy headmaster knows that he never paid the entrance fee. Wiglaf assumes that he will never return, but when he faces the dragon, along with over-eager fellow student Eric von Royale, he learns that he has strengths others may not realize.

At first, I was put off by the tone of the book, which was oddly archaic. I wondered if this was just a mediocre chapter book, dashed off quickly with a few generic fantasy elements. As I continued to read, though, I saw that the author was poking fun at the fantasy genre, and dragon topics in particular. I realized that the overblown rhetoric was intentional, and part of the humor. It's a funny story. As a girl who grew up reading fantasy, I was able to appreciate the mockery, and still enjoy the underdog story buried beneath campy characters and situations. Once I realized that the author was intentional about the ridiculous elements, I was able to fully enjoy this book. Wiglaf is the straight man to the many crazy characters around him, and several of the other students are primed to become his good friends later on. This whole adventure is a clear set-up story for a longer series, with many unanswered questions; nonetheless, the author does a good job of resolving one plot line, the confrontation with the awful Gorzil, while leaving the doors open for many potential story ideas. At the end, my one complaint is about a flaw in the main character. Wiglaf is so sensitive that he can't stand hurting another creature, or even using his sword on a dragon, but he is okay with a dragon laughing itself to death, literally. That is a big inconsistency in character, but I will give the series the benefit of thinking that later books will explore this conflict. And it does mesh with some of the black humor in the story, which adults will notice but children are likely to overlook (his family happily sending him off to likely death, for instance). I do look forward to reading future developments. ( )
  nmhale | Nov 19, 2013 |
This book was funny. I liked how Wiglaf used jokes to slay the dragon. ( )
  Zanezabar | May 2, 2012 |
Wiglaf was destined to be a cabbage farmer; that was before the minstrel came one winter. After convincing his father to let the poor man stay, he ends up spending his free hours hearing stories, especially those about dragons and dragon hunters. Before leaving, the minstrel told him that he was going to be a hero when he grew up.


Months later, he and his family comes upon a sign advertising the "Dragon Slayers' Academy". He ends up getting the chance to go and be a hero (though the reason was that he wouldn't be missed and if he did succeed they would get a lot of money...or so they thought). So setting off on his new life with his best friend Daisy the pig, he ends up at the Academy. Almost after he gets there, he gets sent to defeat the dreaded dragon Gorzil with his new friend Eric. The only problem is that Wiglaf hates harming any creature. So now he has to figure out how to kill a dragon whom many have died trying to kill while discovering that things at the Academy are not all that they seem.


This book is a fun read. It reminds me of Harry Potter meets How to Slay a Dragon. It's has its hilarious moments and is easy to read. Also, I loved how the author gave hints to the true identity of Eric throughout the book. ( )
  deepikasd | Oct 9, 2011 |
This is an easy book for people that need to get books read for school. It has less than a hundred pages. This book is about Wiglaf, a boy that doesn't fit in with his family and they don't really need him, and when a fortune teller tells him that he will become a hero then he is on his way to Dragon slayers academy where he is taught how to slay dragons. After one day he is sent to kill his first dragon Gorzil with his friend Eric. ( )
  Bobby3457 | May 30, 2011 |
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For Mrs. Roché-Albert

and all the great kids

in her class at P.S. 116

-K. McM.
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Knock! Knock!
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0448431084, Paperback)

When a traveling minstrel foretells that he is to become a hero, Wiglaf sets out to fulfill his destiny: he signs up at the Dragon Slayers' Academy. But how can he ever hope to be a dragon slayer when he can't even stand the sight of blood?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:53 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Wiglaf is off to Dragon Slayers' Academy and in for a first day of school he will never forget.

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