As the smallest giant in Mount Grumble, Muncle Trogg is a disappointment to his parents. Laughed at for being human-sized (the giants call them `Smallings') he's too tiny to be good at the things that giants should be good at - like mining and dragon keeping - and deliberately misses school. But exams are coming up, which Muncle has to pass to get a good job. His only chance is in Smalling Studies, which he's sure he could pass given that he's their size so he decides to leave the mountain to see what he can learn about a nearby village that's full of them. What happens though sets off a chain of events that threatens all of the giants - and only Muncle can save them.
Janet Foxley's debut novel won The Times Children's Fiction Competition in 2010 and it's easy to see why. This is a charming and funny story but there's still a sensitive core there that'll make you feel sorry for Muncle as you cheer him on.
Muncle is badly bullied by the other giants - even his own brother likes to pick him up and dangle him upside down - and no-one, not his parents and certainly not his teachers do anything about it. In fact the giants don't realise how much they're physically hurting poor Muncle, who's more fragile than them because of his size. It's no wonder therefore that he chooses to skive school and it means that you root doubly hard for him when he realizes the Smalling Studies is his key to a better future. His scenes with Biblos, the Wise Man, are lovely to read, the kindly giant being the only one to believe that Muncle has something to offer and who gives him a purpose.
Because Muncle knows what it's like to be hurt, he's also the only one who realises that the way the giants treat the dragons - clipping their wings to stop them from flying and forcing them to drink water so they can't breathe fire - is cruel. The scenes with the runaway dragon Snarg are also a joy as they each learn to love their freedom.
The illustrations by Steve Wells deserve special mention as they really add to the humour of the book (and there were a lot of scenes that had me sniggering).
The book ends with a set-up for a sequel, which I will definitely be reading.