Cammuso, F. (2009). Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dragon Players. New York: Scholastic.
Appetizer: In the sequel to the original Knights of the Lunch Table, a little time has passed. Artie is now comfortably friends with Percy and Wayne, but the Horde are still causing trouble. As Artie and his friends prepare for a "Dragon Duel" robot competition as a part of the Dragon Day celebration, their main competition is the Horde of bullies and Artie's own decision about whether or not he'll cheat to win the prize Wayne needs to escape Principal Dagger's clutches after an incident in which his bowling ball met her shiny car.
So, I originally wasn't going to review this book.
It seemed to lose some of the focus on re-presenting Arthurian legend that the first book had (which actually seemed a little heavy handed...I also had to reread that book this week. It's been a busy week o' the graphic here.). The plot of the sequel also seemed less focused. Percy was avoiding Artie. Morgan, Artie's sister is trying to give his toys away to charity. All of these things do contribute to the overall story, of course. I just felt like it took some time to get there.
Also, some of the illustrations were a little harder to decipher. Take this page for example. Which one is Artie's sister, Morgan and which is his Mom:
It took me several extra glances to figure it out. All of this was of course triggered by the thought, "Why would Artie's mom give him the extra hot wings?" Then after five minutes..."Oh wait, that smile's more of a sneer and the bangs are parted in a different way. How could I not notice sooner?"
But then I came to the end of the graphic novel.
And I decided I HAD to review it.
You see, one of my big problems with the first book was the ending. The way Artie defeats The Horde in a dodgeball championship can kinda-sorta be construed as cheating. I had a problem with it and so did some of my students.
The Dragon Players seems almost to address that complaint directly. Once again, Artie goes on a quest to find a way to defeat Joe and the Horde, but when he realizes that his plan is cheating, he must, ahem, choose between feeding those two internal dragons that we all know so well:
Artie: "Two Dragons?"
Mr. Merlyn: "Sure. One stands for what's right: sharing, kindness, compassion, and truth. The other stands for all the bad stuff like fear, anger, greed, and deceit. And those dragons are always fighting."
Artie: "So which dragon wins?"
Mr. Merlyn: "The one you feed the most."
It all makes more sense in context.
I just liked that it felt like Cammuso was going back and addressing the critique of the first book. It made me happy. Mmmm, happy.
Mom: What are you two doing?!
Morgan: I'm collecting junk for a charity auction at school on Dragon Day. It's for my cheerleading squad.
Artie: She's stealing my stuff! (p. 8).
Wayne: Where are we going to get $300?
Percy: What do you mean we?
Wayne: It wasn't just my fault [the bowling ball threw Principal Dagger's windshield]!
Percy: Since when is your bowling ball our responsibility?
Artie: We all had a hand in it. We're in this together. We are Knights, after all (p. 29).
Miss Flunke: People say that on Dragon Eve, a dragon roams the town looking for a sacrifice. If you are outside past dark, he will swoop down and take you away. Just thinking about it gives me the creeps.
Mr. Merlyn: Yes, well, Dragon Day has changed from a day kids fear to one they enjoy. It is still about sacrifice. That's why we're having a charity auction. So people can donate some of their belongings to a good cause. But it's also about having fun and laughing at what makes you scared" (p. 31).
Percy: The Dragon Duel? It's boring! Every year, teams build remote-controlled robots, then let 'em loose in battle. The toughest robot wins. How stupid.
Artie: It sounds cool to me! (p. 34)
Tasty Rating: !!!