Posts Tagged ‘books for kids’

Here’s another classic picture book with dragons. It was published in 1980, by the author of Love You Forever and other great picture books. His illustration partner for this book was Michael Martchenko.

The Paper Bag Princess features Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, the prim and proper Prince Ronald. Alas, a terrible dragon appears and destroys Elizabeth’s castle. It snatches Ronald, and flies away! The destitute princess sets off to rescue her fiance, with no weapons and wearing nothing but a paper bag (the dragon burned all her gowns when it attacked the castle). Elizabeth succeeds by using her wits, but Ronald is shocked at her undignified appearance. The engagement is over.

These days, we’re accustomed to female characters who defend their own interests, but in 1980 this was a startling reversal of the tropes. It won lots of accolades, especially from feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women. Because attitudes have changed over time, the story has lost some of its punch. Still, you could do a lot worse than The Paper Bag Princess for your child’s bedtime reading.

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Continuing with the grade-school thread, here’s a sweet and funny dragon story for beginning readers. Good Night, Good Knight was written by Shelley Moore Thomas and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. Penguin published it in the early 2000s and it is still in print.

The title character is the Good Night, who keeps a faithful watch over his “crumbly, tumbly tower.” But one night he hears a great roar. Tracing the sound, he comes upon a lonely cave where three baby dragons can’t get to sleep. Rather than attacking them, the Good Knight does everything a surrogate parent could possibly do to help them settle down.

This is one of the first books my kids discovered in the library. We read it many times, and it holds a lot of memories. Like I said, it’s sweet and funny. There are two companion books, Get Well, Good Knight and Happy Birthday, Good Night. I recommend them all for a bedtime read or an easy reader.

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Here’s a good old game I’ve had for years but somehow forgotten about. It was released in 2004 by WizKids, and won a slew of awards. They also released Tsuro of the Seas, which is just like Tsuro except you’re sailing a ship and there are sea monsters. Both sets currently are produced by Calliope Games.

Tsuro is a quick board game for two to eight players. You start at the edge of the board and set down tiles, each of which has pictures of various strings that connect with adjoining tiles. These are the paths mentioned in the game’s title.

The goal is to keep to your own path without going off the edge of the board. However, you must always move forward to the end of the path. So, you can force opponents out of the game by setting down a tile that will direct them off the board. If it happens that two players are on the same path and collide, then both are out of the game. Staying still is not an option.

In addition to the simple rules, the illustration is a major selling point for this game. A beautiful red and gold Asian dragon adorns the box. The individual playing pieces resemble standing stones, each with a similar dragon carved in.

This game is very easy and yet challenging. The board only has 36 spaces, so it fills up fast, leading to a short game. People who want dazzling excitement may not be thrilled with Tsuro, but the game is perfect if you just want to chill for a few minutes with family and friends.

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I’m bringing you a blast from the past today, a rare example of Victorian children’s writing that has survived to the modern day. Edith Nesbit was British, born in 1858, and a life-long rebel. She married a socialist writer and was involved in the political causes of the day, including women’s suffrage and worker rights. She was a shocking figure who smoked in public, wore her hair short, and generally showed disdain for Victorian social conventions.

Nesbit began selling poetry at age 15 and continued all her life. It’s a mark of her strong personality that she wrote under her own name rather than her husband’s, which would have been Mrs. Hubert Bland. Yet it’s also telling that she chose to conceal her gender by using her initial, E. Nesbit. Even today, some of our greatest women writers, like C. J. Cherryh and J. K. Rowling, do the same thing.

Amid the constant scramble of writing to keep her family fed, Edith Nesbit made a pioneering contribution to children’s literature. In 1890 there was very little writing specifically for children, and that was mostly sermonizing about how to live a proper British life. Nesbit combined fantasy — fairy tales were big in Victorian literature — with more realistic elements of child behavior and modern life. She referred to real places, such as Crystal Palace, and her child characters were often naughty before their basic goodness won out.

The Book of Dragons is a collection of Nesbit’s short stories, all combining kids, magic, and dragons. Remember that this is Victorian literature. There’s a lot of passive voice. Characters are either good or evil, and not much suspense about the outcomes. All the dragons have just one goal: to eat everyone in the world. Yet Nesbit has great verve, humor, and invention. In many ways, her stories reads like precursors to Roald Dahl and the Oz series of her contemporary, L. Frank Baum.

Of the eight short stories collected here, “The Island of the Nine Whirlpools” is a favorite. A loyal queen is sent to visit a witch by her husband, a stern and unloving enchanter/king. The queen asks to get a baby, sort of like ordering draperies for the palace, but makes a small omission and receives a girl instead of a boy. The king is irate and basically never forgives the queen. The tale strikes me as a poignant comment on women’s lives in the Victorian Era, when men owned everything and women and children struggled to be heard.

Although popular in her time, Nesbit is no longer well known. Her works do survive in “classics” editions by Dell Yearling, or you might find her in a used book store near you. If you like Baum or Dahl, they’ll be worth the hunt.

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Greetings, mortals. It is I, Cazarluun the Majestic, Guardian of Venge Hill and Defender of the Light. As a true dragon*, I shall enlighten you on the nature of the constellations.

Mortals have given various names to those figures drawn by the stars. They are a hobjob, frankly, of humans, animals and fantastic beasts, all tossed upward with no rhyme or reason. Allow me to explain that there is, in fact, a solemn story written in the heavens.

Let us begin with what you call “Cepheus,” a supposed king among humans. Look carefully at the shape, flat on one end and pointed on the other. You will see, as we dragons do, that this is The Egg, and it lies at the center of our most sacred legend.

Near The Egg is a longer, twisting shape called “Draco” by humans. In this case, you’re very close. Mother Dragon is her name, and she keeps watch to protect her precious egg against any who would harm it.

Beyond The Egg is what you call “Cygnus the Swan.” To us this is The Heron, Mother Dragon’s trusted companion. Finally, you have dubbed another extended constellation as “Hydra.” In fact, this is Father Dragon, hunting food for his beloved mate.

As the story tells, many animals had heard that Mother Dragon was guarding a great treasure. They thought it was gold or a talisman of power. In fact, it was far more precious — it was The Egg. Mother Dragon did her best to drive them away, but there were too many of them. She grew exhausted by her efforts. The Heron flew to find Father Dragon, who returned just in time to stop the greedy animals from stealing The Egg.

Be grateful, mortals, that I have shared such wisdom with you. 

* Cazarluun is another dragon character who appears in Lucy D. Ford’s forthcoming short story collection.

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Today I’m sharing an advance review by a young reader. It appeared in the blog of a friend, Jennifer M. Eaton. Her son reviewed the book, Dragons Vs. Drones, by Wesley King. Just the title makes me want this book, and a review straight from the audience is great to hear.

Check it out here.

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Giant dragon statues seem to be a thing in Britain these days. Another large advertising sculpture was unveiled at Caerphilly Castle in Wales on March 1st. In this installation, the head, claws and wingtips of a big red dragon appear to emerge from the moat of the picturesque Medieval castle. With golden glass eyes and steam wafting from the nostrils, it’s a truly amazing sight.

The pieces were made by Wild Creations, a prop maker based in Cardiff. It took about six weeks to model, mold the fiberglass, and paint the set. The same company also created an installation at Cardiff Castle last year, which appears to show a giant rugby ball embedded in the castle wall.

It’s all part of Cadw’s Historic Adventures, a tourism campaign aimed at promoting visits to Wales’ historic castles. If it wasn’t on the far side of an ocean, it would sure work on me!

Check out the full article, with progress photos, here.

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In the “Shadow Dragon Saga,” the final plot arc of the epic Dragonball series, the good dragon Shenron turns to the dark side. Dragonball has some philosophical groundings in Zen, which show clearly here. Every character has facets of good and evil. Several times, readers encounter characters who have split themselves into good and evil halves in order to reach a sort of enlightenment. However, the ‘evil selves’ always have their own goals and often become deadly villains.

In the same way, when heroes gather all the dragonballs and make their wishes, good and evil energies are created. Good energy goes into actually fulfilling the wish (assuming it is a benevolent one). Evil energy is contained within the dragonballs and released slowly over hundreds of years. This works all right in the era when the scattered dragonballs are nearly impossible to find, but advancing technology such as Bulma’s “radar” makes it relatively easy to gather them. As the dragonballs are used more and more often, the evil energy can’t be released. Eventually it builds to a critical mass.

When Goku makes his latest wish, an “evil half” of Shenron is created. Black Smoke Shenron seizes the dragonballs before they can disperse. He divides himself into seven Shadow Dragons, each connected to one of the dragonballs. Each of the Shadow Dragons has a distinct appearance, personality, and power set. The relative strength and malevolence of these dragons corresponds to the nobility and the scope of the original wishes. So the most comical dragons are linked to small or silly wishes, while the most vicious spring from wishes that revived many people or righted great wrongs.

The Shadow Dragons are, roughly from least to most powerful: Haze Shenron (pollution), Rage Shenron (stretching), Oceanus (water), Naturon Shenron (earth), Nuovo Shenron (fire), Eis Shenron (ice) and the most devious and cruel of all, Syn Shenron. Syn is a lethal martial artist whose goal is to destroy all life in the universe. He loves to taunt and torment his victims as much as he enjoys bloodying his hands.

In the closing chapters of the Shadow Dragon Saga, Syn devours the seven dragonballs and becomes Omega Shenron, whose awesome and terrifying power is capable of obliterating Earth itself. An array of heroes face Omega through many twists and turns. Both sides appear certain of victory at times, but finally Goku destroys Omega Shenron with a technique called Universal Spirit Bomb.

In the aftermath, the original Shenron returns. He heals the wounded and reverses all of the Shadow Dragons’ damage. Then Shenron tells the heroes he needs time to recover. He takes the dragonballs and disappears. Now the people of Earth must stop depending on him and begin to make better choices.

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Pardon this brief commercial announcement. My publisher, Sky Warrior Books, is having a summer e-book sale, now til Friday, July 31st. All E-Books are half-off.

Dragon's Hoard cover

Dragon’s Hoard cover

I have a story in this anthology, which is all about dragons and treasure.

Cover to the MG fantasy novel, Masters of Air & Fire

Cover to the MG fantasy novel, Masters of Air & Fire

Here’s my juvenile fantasy novel, Masters of Air & Fire, a family drama where the family are dragons.

The Grimhold Wolf low res
Another recent release is The Grimhold Wolf, a Gothic-style werewolf novel.

And don’t forget The Seven Exalted Orders, my best selling book for Sky Warrior!

Follow this link to get the code: https://www.facebook.com/events/486968021477427/

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Years ago, when George R. R. Martin was a respected writer but not yet world famous, he penned a short story called “The Ice Dragon” for an anthology edited by Orson Scott Card. Dragons of Light was published in 1980 by Ace Science Fiction. Later, as Martin’s reputation grew, the short story was published as a YA fantasy. It’s now been re-released in a new edition from Tor Teen, with lavish illustration by Luis Royo.

The tale involves a young girl named Adara who is a “winter child” with immunity to cold and sensitivity to heat. She shares a close bond with the title creature, an ice dragon, who she loves as much as her neighbors fear it. There are family complications with her uncle, who is a dragon rider fighting in a war. Adara is still a young girl when the battle lines reach her home.

The story is a bit slight — it was a short story first, after all — but the writing is masterful and the illustrations are lovely. The whole certainly has the grand ring of classic fantasy. Allegedly this story takes place in Westeros, the setting of Martin’s magnum opus, A Song of Ice and Fire, although there’s little to directly connect it. The tone is gentler here, as well. Personally, I enjoyed that, though fans of said opus may be a bit disappointed.

In my judgment, because of the lighter touch, this work actually is more suited to middle graders than teens. But if parents were wanting to introduce kids to Martin’s body of work, this is the perfect entry point.

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