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Kenny and the Dragon: A Sweet Lesson and a Sweet Treat

Katherine Nunn, OES library paraprofessional, caramelizes sugar on creme brulee March 16. More than a dozen students assembled in the Odyssey Elementary School library March 16 to celebrate the conclusion of a school-wide community reading experience.

Students, staff and families at the Power Zone elementary school read “Kenny and the Dragon” together during the first three months of the year. The book, written by Toni DeTerlizzi, is a retelling of the literary classic, “The Reluctant Dragon,” originally published by Kenneth Grahame in 1898.

“You get a united sense of sharing the experience of the book," said Katherine Nunn, library paraprofessional, who led the school-wide efforts to read the novel. “The students know they can talk about it with each other and with their teachers.”

Community members, English instructors at other POWER Zone schools, and District 49 leaders joined OES staff in recording chapters for students to follow along with at home.

“We know parents may be working at night or have other responsibilities to attend to so we wanted to make sure that our students had someone to read along with them in the evening,” said Nunn.

As the community reading experience of reading the novel came to an end, Nunn invited interested students to paint or draw a sunset, just like the dragon character does in the story.

“Kenny went to visit Grahame and he would be sitting on a hill painting sunsets and listening to music,” said Nunn about the inspiration from the novel. “Kenny normally came to see the dragon after school when the sun was setting and it was getting dark.”

As a reward for this extra effort, Nunn hosted the student artists in the library to enjoy one of Grahame’s favorite treats.

Odyssey Elementary School students stand under their artwork after reading "Kenny and the Dragon" by Tony DeTerlizzi.   Student artwork is displayed in the Odyssey Elementary School hallway. The work was inspired by "Kenny and the Dragon".   Tony DeTerlizzi, author of "Kenny and the Dragon," presented Odyssey Elementary School with a signed poster.

“We are all going to try this,” said Nunn, lighting a kitchen torch to caramelize sugar on the top of several creme brulee desserts. “Do you think Grahame did it faster?”

“He blew fire from his nose,” said first-grader Carter Oliveto, 7. “If we make this dessert, maybe Grahame will come to our house.”

“It smells like s’mores because it has sugar in it,” said fourth-grader Hayden Newberg, 9.

“In the book it talks about how other dragons are mean,” said Hayden, “but Grahame isn’t.”

“So what do you think that tells us about our life?” asked Nunn, handing the creme brulee to the students.

“Don’t judge something by its cover,” said Hayden. “Something may look mean, but if you get to know it, it may be nice. That applies to people too.”

That’s a sweet lesson to take away from the community reading experience. The sweet treat is a nice little touch too.

A dragon sits on a library shelf as librarian Katherine Nunn prepares creme brulee for students in the OES library March 16.   Books about dragons sit on bookshelves in the Odyssey Elementary School library March 16.   Sugar caramelizes on top of creme brulee desserts in the OES library March 16.

Matt Meister