What is it about characters called Stan that they must boldly go where no man has been before, tailed by an annoying younger sibling?
In case you hadn’t worked it out, I’m looking at Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Space Dragons by Robin Bennett. Nothing to do with a TV series that may have possibly trademarked that phrase. Out of curiosity, I googled “Astronaut Stan” and he’s real … Stan Love
If you follow my blog regularly, you’ll know I absolutely loved Robin Bennett’s last book, The Hairy Hand – you can check out my review here but in a nutshell it was Rincewind (Terry Pratchett) meets The Twits (Roald Dahl) and had me laughing out loud.
Space Dragons is very different. To start with, it’s pitched at the younger end of middle grade, so it’s not a follow on read for fans of The Hairy Hand which I’d say was slightly older. It is, however, ideal for fans of Planet Stan. The writing style is easy, the characters (human) are relatable, and the dragons definitely have touches of Hitchikers Guide to The Galaxy dripping with sarcasm and dry humour.
Anyway, Robin has very kindly popped over to have a bit of a chat about books and kids (his own!) …
I wrote Space Dragons to have two protagonists: a boy and a girl. This was partly just for the helluvit and partly a personal bid to try and get our boys to be nicer to their little sister. And it almost worked.
However they are not completely reformed – I found one of her dolls lashed half way up our conker tree in the garden the other day (quite impressed they managed to get it that high) and, to be fair – aged 10 – she gives as good as she gets these days.
My secondary goal was to have a central character who wasn’t wise cracking or terribly damaged or so mundane as to go out the other side and be perversely interesting. I wanted normal because most of the time most kids like normal – it is their comfort zone. Aside from winding up spending their summer in the outer reaches of our Solar System, Stan and Poppy are pretty typical: Stan is a bit quiet and will get picked on because of it; and Poppy is talkative, but that’s about it, really. However, no-one ever fits the mould completely and growing up is partly a) coming to terms with whatever it is that makes you (usually) just a bit different (tall, short, clever, not-so-clever, weird hair etc) and b) how you turn that into an advantage.
Oh, and I wanted dragons … in Space!
For the record, my primary goal was the same as usual: to write a book that children will read and enjoy … and moral tone, which is frequently just adult posturing and of no interest to children, points vague and points pertinent can go whistle.
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If Stan Pollux had known he would be spending his summer holidays in the outer reaches of our solar system, he would have put on different underpants.
But when he gets kidnapped by the Planet Dragon Mercury, most things suddenly seem small and insignificant. Stan finds himself in a universe of dragons who had once ruled the skies as gods: Mars, Venus, Saturn and even Uranus way out back. This is shaping up to be the best summer holiday in the history of the cosmos until Stan discovers his stupid sister is missing and that Pluto (AKA Hades) is trying to use her to destroy the Solar System. And it will be all Stan’s fault if he doesn’t get Poppy back.
So, all Stan has to do is learn how to fight like a hero in space armour, defeat the dragon god of the Underworld, Hades, rescue his sister and save the world. All before his parents realise she is missing.
About Robin Bennett
Robin Bennett is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children, adults, and everything in between. Listed in the Who’s Who of British Business Excellence at 29, his 2016 documentary “Fantastic Britain”, about the British obsession with fantasy and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and his first book for young adults, Picus the Thief, won the Writer’s News Indie Published Book of the Year Award in 2012. Robin is also a director at Firefly Press
Twitter – https://twitter.com/MonsterBooksRaw