-The Trials of the Cave People: And How Dragons Came to Be –
A series of short, light-hearted tales about the adventures of our ancestors, this book introduces us to a small tribe of cavemen, delighting in the awe-inspiring world around them. From odd newcomers to mysterious creatures, they encounter adventure and friendship at every turn. One of these new friends is a character named Stinkfoot—a massive creature, both furry and friendly, who is welcomed into the tribe of the Cavers… after a thorough bath, of course. Overjoyed with his newfound companions, and grateful for an end to his loneliness, Stinkfoot saves the Cavers from a Purple People Eater, as well as a dangerous crop of giant snapdragons who, in Greenwood’s telling, can deliver painful bites to the unsuspecting passerby.
This whimsical story also touches on the discovery of the horse, soon to be one of mankind’s most trusted companions, and the origin of constructed homes, made possible through friendship with another local tribe. As for the dragons referenced in the title, that myth is born of an exciting, and subsequently embellished, encounter with a towering, apple-loving dinosaur. The result is the fanciful, fire-breathing monster of ancient lore.
Greenwood’s work is full of life and whimsy, accompanied by colorful drawings that further the playful tone. Reading more like a compilation of vignettes, as opposed to a single narrative, this work depicts the Cavers in a series of imaginative exploits certain to delight children. However, there are significant grammar and punctuation issues throughout the text, which can, at times, be distracting. That said, the overall story is deeply heartwarming, touching on themes of inclusion, friendship, and creativity that will both entertain and expand young minds.
-A Visit to the Kingdom of Camelot-
In the ancient kingdom of Camelot, a new king must be chosen after the death of the previous one. The king’s knights turn to Merlin, a wise old recluse who instructs them that whoever can pull Excalibur from its stone will be the rightful king of the land. The knights try their hardest to no avail, but a plucky young man named Arthur gives it his best try despite being a commoner. Amazingly, the sword smoothly releases. As the new king, Arthur puts fairness first above all other things, and so under his regime creates the opportunity for two brave new warriors: Lancelot’s brother Ellsworth and his sister Wendy. Though different from the others, their character and unique traits make them perfectly suited for service to the people of Camelot and the surrounding kingdoms.
Arthurian legend is something most readers will be familiar with, but the author provides a whimsical spin on it with the introduction of Ellsworth (also known as Sir Burpsalot for obvious reasons) and Wendy. Each of these new characters is a young, kind-hearted person who is seen as an outcast from the beginning but proves their worth through consideration and perseverance. Stripping away the gritty realism and adult emotions of The Once and Future King, this story gives children a version of Camelot full of dashing heroes, scary but redeemable monsters, and a sense of humor. With action, strong moral character, and imaginative scenes, characters, and creatures, this is a perfect introduction for readers to legendary characters that populate many different works of fiction.
In a classic fashion that reflects the original stories of the Knights of the Round Table, this book contains a handful of short stories that each cover an adventure of one of the characters. The initial chapter focuses on Arthur and Lancelot, but after that, each adventure follows Burpsalot, Wendy, or both of them together. The pair of younger siblings explores a fantastical world filled with dragons, unicorns, fields of jellybeans, and other bizarre creatures. Large black-and-white illustrations accompany nearly all of the stories, depicting the strange encounters and perilous moments. This title is intended for younger audiences and serves as a great proof of the lesson that anybody can be a brave hero if they put their mind to it and truly want to help people. Ideal for a short story a night before bed or a nap, parents will enjoy sharing these tales with their children.
-A Visit to the Kingdom of Camelot pt.2-
While many are familiar with the stories of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table, this book compiles a list of short tales surrounding Ellsworth and Wendy, Lancelot’s younger brother and sister. Ellsworth is more affectionately known as Burpsalot, for obvious reasons that began as early as he was a baby. Burpsalot yearns to be a famous knight like his brother. When the opportunity to go head-to-head with a furious fire-breathing dragon arises, he sets out to do that which Lancelot could not and defeat the monster. Likewise, Wendy wants to be an archer rather than spend her time around the castle doing chores. Everyone tells her that a girl can’t be an archer, and so Wendy sets out to find Merlin to help her.
-The Trials of the Cave People: And How Dragons Came to Be –
Long ago, cave dwellers enjoyed sitting around a fire at night, cooking, eating, and telling stories about the day’s events. One such night, the leader, Head, tells of meeting a new being in the meadow outside—a large hairy fellow with unusually large feet. This creature, Stinkfoot, smells terrible, and people throw up when they get near him. Head enlists volunteers to take Stinkfoot to the washing pool and scrub him down. Surprisingly, after this takes place, Stinkfoot’s black fur turns blond, and “he no longer smelled at all.” He even becomes an asset to the cavers, his huge feet repelling a purple people eater. Hearing the cavers’ concern about snapdragons that bite passersby, Stinkfoot asks his friend the musk ox to eat all the snapdragons, the ox’s favorite food.
Next, the cavers encounter a huge, frightening creature breathing fire and smoke. But when the beast, which they call a dragon, breathes fire onto an apple tree, it roasts all the apples. These are a treat for the group. A caver named Groat discovers an animal with long hair on its neck and tail. It is gentle and takes food from the caver’s hand. He’s named Horse. Groat can ride Horse, even guiding him in the direction he wants to go. Together they discover other men. But strangely, these men do not live in a cave. They live in a large house made of wood where they can gather at a fire in the evenings and with a hole in the roof for smoke to blow out. Groat’s report encourages his fellow cavers to build such a house. Horse helps by hauling the trees that the cavers cut down with their stone axes. Once they have their new home, they know they will always want to live there.
Greenwood, who has created other books designed for curious children and their interested teachers and parents, is a retired sales representative who has worked in publishing. This engaging work is particularly intended to evoke lively speculation about how humanity’s ancient ancestors survived and thrived. In some cases, he also provides direct answers, such as here when he interjects that the huge “dragon” seen and feared by the cavers was probably “a dinosaur that had managed to survive after all the other dinosaurs have died.” He also depicts his characters humanly embellishing the story of this fearsome creature by adding the element of its fiery breath.
In each instance of new discoveries, the cavers are progressing, changing, and learning about new ways to live by making good use of the nearby resources. The befriending and training of Horse is an excellent demonstration of the possible cooperation between people and animals. The house-dwelling people certainly represent a great leap toward a more civilized life for the former cavers, showing the potential of mutual understanding and the willingness to follow new examples. Parents and teachers reading these stories can use these readily accessible concepts to teach their young audience, who will also be enthralled by the colorful illustrations.
-A Visit to the Kingdom of Camelot Series 1-
Of King Arthur’s knights of the round table, Sir Lancelot is perhaps the most famous. He is the most handsome and bravest and King Arthur’s favorite. But Lancelot has an obscure younger brother, Ellsworth. Ellsworth, however, has had a terrible habit since he was a baby: he burps loudly and often. As an infant, he shatters every nearby windowpane in King Arthur’s Camelot castle with the first of these burps. That feat earns him a nickname for life: Burpsalot. He has none of Lancelot’s good looks or bravery, but his unassuming intelligence is just what the beleaguered kingdom needs. When a wicked dragon devours every sheep it sees, keeping potential rescuers at bay with its fiery breath, Burpsalot is Arthur’s last hope. But will his solution satisfy everyone?
Meanwhile, another sibling emerges from Lancelot’s shadow. Even younger than Burpsalot, his sister Wendy resents the limitations that forbid medieval girls to learn archery. She does not want to acquire such acceptable womanly skills as mending and cooking. Flouting convention and using a discarded bow, she secretly teaches herself archery. Her prowess soon earns her the privilege of firing nonlethal screaming arrows whose screams confuse enemy armies. But a race of smelly invaders, the Stinkers, fight deafening noise with a nauseating stench that threatens to decimate the residents of the neighboring kingdom. Playing the unlikely hero is nothing new to Burpsalot. With the help of George, the reformed dragon, he once more proves his mettle. Now, astride Lucy the unicorn, Wendy, too, can honor her family name.
In memory of his sister-in-law, Greenwood wrote this droll adaptation of Arthurian legend for her grandchildren. This is his first book. He parodies most major characters and excludes others completely. Guinevere, for example, is absent. Arthur begins as a scrawny child nicknamed Artie. Merlin’s owl is named Growl and offers advice when asked. But more often, he staunchly protects the wizard’s privacy by defecating on (and thus deterring) would-be visitors and counsel seekers. And the destructive dragon Burpsalot first conquered is now named George, probably a humorous nod to the legend of St. George, the dragon slayer.
Both male and female characters successfully defeat their enemies by bloodless means. Though Burpsalot’s propensity for belching displeases Arthur at first, the knight can control it. He restrains a large burp until he is in the very presence of the dragon he must confront. Burpsalot’s powerful belch unconventionally relieves the indigestion the dragon suffers after eating too many sheep. Furthermore, this permanently extinguishes his fire.
Likewise, the screaming arrows Wendy shoots are meant to frighten and distract foes, not kill them. Her simple presence as a creature entirely strange to him—a female and a person without armor—stops Growl from showering her with droppings in his customary fashion when they first meet. This style of nonviolent warfare appeals also to their enemies. Implied flatulence is the Stinkers’ weapon of choice. They can close their nostrils against their unpleasant smell.
This very funny book is intended for kids ages five to twelve years. As does Peter Nuttall’s King Arthur and the Knights of the Pantomime Table: A Traditional Pantomime, this story successfully pokes fun at venerated legendary heroes. Adults with scatological senses of humor will also like Greenwood’s tale, particularly if they favor teaching nonviolent conflict resolution.
-A Visit to the Kingdom of Camelot Series 2-
This second book in a series continues the fantastic adventures of Wendy and Sir Burpsalot as they travel throughout the Kingdom of Camelot. The two young adventurers ride their mounts, a dragon and a unicorn, and visit the various inhabitants of the land. During a visit to the Land of the Stinkers, they discover that the Stinkers are now making perfume and wearing too much. They also visit a land that grows jellybeans to meet all their nutritional needs and find out that crows are stealing all the black jellybeans under the watchful eye of the old crone, Beaky. They decide it is their duty to solve the problem. In addition, each of the protagonists is approached with new job opportunities in distant lands, setting up more adventures in the next book in the series.
Greenwood approaches his story in the manner of a caretaker who is reading children a bedtime story. Each short section contains its own tale, and a storyteller could read only one section or the entire book to children in a sitting. Children with good reading skills could read these on their own, but the vocabulary may be a little difficult for the target audience. However, this is obviously written with young children in mind, especially considering the work’s brief adventures and whimsical nature. Greenwood’s writing is grammatical clean and moves the story along at a quick pace. In addition, the book includes many illustrations. The included artwork is done in simple line drawings. Occasionally, one of the character’s heads gives the slight impression that it may be on the body backward, but, overall, the illustrations are well-done and carry charm all on their own. Their inclusion adds to the overall enjoyment of the stories.
There is a clear influence here of works like Roald Dahl’s The BFG or even some of the works by Dav Pilkey. In a similar fashion, Greenwood uses very silly humor and quirky characters and settings to appeal to a young child’s interests. In addition, anyone familiar with the older Rainbow Brite animated series may find some common threads in the colorful settings and odd, adorable creatures. This is definitely a story that young children can delight in and chuckle at the humor. It is short, entertaining, and served up as a summer blockbuster. It should delight young readers in the same way a wacky but lovable uncle makes up spontaneous stories to tell children, the ones that cause the parents to smile and shake their heads while the kids laugh and then shortly forget the tale. Yet, they always remember how fun it is when their uncle tells stories. Many children will find the story appealing and humorous on their first or second listen. It is also likely that there will be a few who will want to hear the stories again and again. That, in itself, is a positive note to this lighthearted tale. Parents and children searching for a book filled with short adventures that are sure to evoke a chuckle or two along the way may wish to add this book to their shelves.
Greenwood delivers a children’s book filled with timely lessons and a resurgence of hope in a spinoff of King Arthur and the legendary Camelot. The world of magic has a knack for instilling hope within its readers, and this narrative is no different. Catering to children who are beginning to transition from picture books to chapter books, this tale seeks to keep the Camelot story at the forefront of the readers’ minds.
When a girl named Kathy constantly experiences bullying—sometimes even being punched by a boy, Henry—she becomes exasperated and visits Merlin the Magician. Not only does Merlin take an audience with her, but he also gives her an assortment of powers that can help Kathy improve the world of all those around her. From a thematic perspective, Greenwood is sending a strong message at an early age that it is not okay, under any circumstance, to hit girls. Although perhaps done indirectly, planting this message in younger children’s minds facilitates the rise of a more empathetic and considerate humanity. In a world where brutality toward women is all too common, it is refreshing to see the author tell his story through Kathy’s perspective as she evolves from a timid young girl who only wishes for some respite from a bully to a confident young woman ready to take on all comers.
When Merlin gives Kathy powers, she thinks beyond her feud with Henry, directly looking to serve the world. In time, King Artie and Kathy’s paths cross, and the king is unquestionably in awe of her abilities and commitment to good. While one finger on the right hand can create debilitating thunder, a finger on the left can render a dangerous situation entirely harmless. Younger audiences will particularly enjoy Kathy’s character as she takes flight, uttering the magic words, “Scuba Duba Kazaam!” Interestingly, a generation of now adults has been mesmerized by Merlin, King Arthur, and all of Camelot. Greenwood’s choice to integrate the world into his story undoubtedly revitalizes the legend. It is certain to pique the interest of young kids who have never heard the Arthurian legend before.
Stylistically, Greenwood strikes the right balance between text and illustrations, ensuring that both text-oriented and visual learners enjoy the piece. The resplendent energy of the pictures carries over into the prose and allows the story to illuminate in the reader’s mind. The clarity of the illustrations pairs seamlessly with prose that primarily consists of simple sentences that move the plot forward while keeping young readers engaged. Whether Kathy saves farmers’ crops from a devastating drought or turns dragons into bats, her adventures continuously lead her closer to King Artie’s heart. Though readers won’t find the traditional epic battles of King Arthur (who in Greenwood’s world is now retired), the notion of Camelot, castles, and magic is certain to rekindle memories among adults while sparking the imagination of today’s youth. A seamless, adventure-filled storyline fused with a likable female protagonist in Kathy and a familiar world of magic make Greenwood’s story an entertaining read.
-The Adventures with Robin Hood-
King Richard of England is off on a crusade to reclaim the Holy Land from infidels and make life safe for Christians. In his place, his brother John ascends to his throne during the absence and quickly establishes an iron grip rule replete with taxes and unscrupulous lawmen who take delight in inflicting pain on any that oppose the new king. Robin Hood had been with King Richard when word of his ailing father brought him back to Sherwood Forest, only to find the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men had killed his family and burned their properties to the ground. Vowing revenge, Robin takes up life as an outlaw, assembling a group of “Merry Men” to stand opposed to King John’s tyranny and uphold the honor of their true king Richard until he can return.
This retelling of the popular and well-established legend of Robin Hood offers readers a chance to learn the backstory behind the characters that have withstood the test of time, such as Maid Marian, Little John, and Friar Tuck. Sticking largely to the established canon of Robin Hood, this title is best suited for those less familiar with Robin’s story. However, readers with only a surface-level knowledge of the Merry Men will still have some lesser-known or new characters to appreciate, like Alan-a-Dale and Penelope, a young girl who endures a similar fate as Robin Hood before being taken under his wing and trained as an archer. Succinct yet hitting all the most important details, this action-filled legend offers readers a quick excursion back in time with a true icon of fiction.
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