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Knighthood for Beginners by Elys Dolan

It's difficult to convey the joyous silliness of this marvellous

novel for young readers. Elys Dolan, so loved for her picture books (Weasels, Steven Seagull and many more) has produced one of my favourite books this year. Gasp at the peasants' extraordinary carbuncles! Tremble as Dave and Albrecht (rather inappropriately) access the King's bathroom via the lavatory! Wonder at the Bearded Lady's unexpected skill as a relationship counsellor! Ponder whether rat-on-a-stick is really something you'd want to eat!

Dave is a dragon, but he's really bad at it. He doesn't want to eat villages, he's rubbish at hoarding and he can't even knit (an important dragonish skill). He just likes reading books. When he fails his Dragon Certificate he must seek his fortune in a world which isn't kind to dragons, especially useless ones.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, Dave decides to become a knight. He is aided in this quest by his trusty steed, Albrecht, a talkative and opinionated goat with a romantically chequered past, a remarkably glossy coat and an occasional fondness for wearing dresses. Soon the kingdom is in terrible danger and Albrecht and Dave must thwart the machinations of the evil shark-loving Sir Gnasty, ideally without resorting to violence.

They are helped and frequently hindered by a bearded lady, a witch, some peasants, a mud wrestler, a ballerina and a whale. When Dave is given a Special Hat he briefly lets his Knightish success go to his head and is forced to learn an important lesson about friendship. He and Albrecht have to go to couples counselling before thwarting yet more evil. You should absolutely buy this for the seven year old in your life, but adults who need cheering up will also find it hugely enjoyable. Switch off the news and read Knighthood for Beginners instead. I promise you'll feel better.

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