Posts Tagged ‘kids’s books’

In line with Fairy Dragons, which I mentioned last week, there is a whole sub-genre of books that feature baby dragons. Some of these are juvenile novels where a youth protagonist cares for one or more baby dragons. The emphasis here is on compassionate kids taking care of beasts that their parents regard as dangerous and terrifying.

One example is Susan Fletcher’s Dragon Chronicles series: Dragon’s Milk (1989), Flight of the Dragon Kyn (1993), Flight of the Dove (1996) and Ancient, Strange and Lovely (2010). A did a series review a while back. A more recent series is Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George: Dragon Slippers (2006), Dragon Flight (2008), and Dragon Spear (2009). Here’s my review.

Sometimes the main character is a young dragon, as with the graphic novel series, Dragonbreath (started in 2009) by Ursula Vernon.

And how could I forget Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider series? I really need to get to those books some day.

There’s also a category of picture books featuring dragon characters. Sometimes there is an actual baby dragon, but more often a child character is coping with draconic behavior. Some that I’ve reviewed are Dragons Love Tacos (2012) by Adam Rubin, and Dragon Was Terrible (2016) by Kelly DiPucchio.

I’d suspect these are intended for fantasy-loving parents who want to introduce the genre to their young children. So if you have kids or grandkids, by all means go on a “dragon hunt” in your local bookstore or library. You never know what you’ll find!

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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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I was really excited when one of the kids in my math group mentioned this video game. It’s based on the How to Train Your Dragon movies and web episodes. Fans can play as a Viking with their very own dragon. They go on quests and such, and it sounds like tons of fun. Check it out here.

Unfortunately for me, my system won’t run it. Download and installation went fine, but there was an endless loadup for individual sessions. I had to give up. Which, I guess, is a lesson to me that specifications matter and I need more RAM or more bandwidth to make this work.

Even so, it does sound like a really fun game that’s appropriate for the under-twelve age group. If you remember the movies, you know the characters are fairly over-the-top. The dragons are very colorful and have a quirky, fun design to them.

If any of you have suitable systems to play The School of Dragons, I’d love to get some player reviews.

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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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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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I’m so glad I went on my ramble last week about dragons, zombies and dystopian fiction. I got much more response than usual. Thanks to all who commented, even if you disagreed with my theories about apocalyptic fiction.

To update my self-publishing plans, I have been reading and studying the process, figuring out which stories to present, who the audience will be, and so on. My budget and schedule are slowly coming together. My plan at the moment is to publish ten of Lucy D. Ford’s fantasy short stories. Half of them were in my podcast, The Dragon King, back in 2012. The others are newer and have a slightly more contemporary tone. It should be a great collection for kids in 4th to 6th grades, or adults who enjoy the fairy-tale style.

After setting up this blog post, I’ll start inquiring about cover and interior art. I’ve gotten to know a number of illustrators during my years involved with SF clubs and conventions, so it will be fun to get in touch with a few old friends. As I always say, stay tuned for more information.

After all this, I can’t stand to leave you dragonless, so here’s a fun news story from Britain. It appeared that a gigantic dragon skull had washed up on a Dorset beach in 2013. Charmouth Beach is on the famous “Jurassic coast,” where many dinosaur fossils have been unearthed.

Alas, the dragon skull turned out to be… an advertising sculpture! It seems one of Britain’s media streaming companies, BlinkBox, was about to release the third season of Game of Thrones. I’ve been searching around to see if the sculpture still exists, and where it might be now. If anyone has the information, I’d love to hear from you.

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To close this thread, I can’t pass up the chance to tout my own book. Masters of Air & Fire is a fantasy for middle graders featuring a trio of young wyrmlings who are cast adrift due to the sudden death of their parent.

My wyrmlings have chameleon-like patches of skin in their crests and underwings. These change colors and patterns to show emotions. Their crests may turn black (fear), striped black/yellow or black/white (anger, aggression), and green or blue (friendship, affection, humor). When Wrotha is lost, all of their scales show gray and white, and their crests droop with despair.

Each of the wyrmlings have a different emotional reaction, as well. Romik, the gentlest of the three, holds onto Wrotha’s memory and insists on searching for her even when there’s no hope. When they encounter humans, Romik cultivates a surrogate-parent relationship with an older woman, Hanani. Yazka, the aggressive one, tries to take leadership of the group. It’s her way to regain a sense of control, and also plays out a sibling rivalry with Orlik. She also makes friends with a human, the village chief Taksepu. However, her motives for this are suspect. Finally, Orlik is the responsible one. He becomes so focused on taking care of the others that he sometimes seems to feel nothing at all.

If you’re interested, please check out Masters of Air & Fire for Kindle or Nook.

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Q: Why did the dragon fly over the mountain?

A: To see what he could see.

Q: What did the dragon see?

A: The other side of the mountain. (Duh)

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Cultures around the world have admired dragons and believed that even a small part of a dragon’s body held immense power. From Greece, we inherit two legends involving teeth of a dragon. When sown like grain, they sprouted a crop of warriors!

The older legend is that of Cadmus (or Kadmos) and the founding of Thebes. Cadmus was born into the royal family of Tyre. His father was King Aegnos, his mother Queen Telephassa, his brothers Phoenix, Cilix and Thasus, and his only sister was named Europa. Yes, that Europa, who was carried off by Zeus in the guise of a bull. After Europa disappeared, her whole family was distraught. King Aegnos ordered his four sons to go in search of Europa and never return without her. For whatever reason, Queen Telephassa journeyed with Cadmus.

Three of the four eventually gave up on finding Europa, and settled down to found a new civilization. Phoenix founded Phoenicia, Cilix a city called Cilicia, and Thasus settled the Aegean island of Thassos. On the island of Thrace, Telephassa died of grief and Cadmus buried her with honor. Then he sought out the Oracle at Delphi for advice.

The Oracle told Cadmus he must allow Europa her own fate (which was to found the nation of Crete) and follow a cow that he would find near the temple. Wherever the cow went, he must follow, until it stopped to rest. In that place, he should found his own great city. In sorrow, Cadmus did as the Oracle said. He found a cow, which wandered far into the land of Boetia and settled to rest on the banks of the Cephesis River.

Cadmus gathered his followers and prepared to sacrifice the cow to Athena, patroness of brave ventures. To do this, they needed clean water. Cadmus’s followers went to a nearby spring, where the water was exceptionally pure. Unfortunately, this was the home of a dragon, son of Ares the god of War. It didn’t like having its water stolen and killed them all in vengeance.

Eventually Cadmus wondered where his companions had gone. He confronted the dragon, which had a head like a crested helm and teeth of glittering gold. After a terrible battle, Cadmus slew the vicious beast and took water from the spring to complete the sacrifice. Athena herself had watched Cadmus’s deed and been pleased. She appeared to him and told him to gather all the dragon’s teeth. Half he should save, but he should plow the earth and plant the rest of the teeth like seeds.

The hero did as she advised. To his amazement, when he planted the teeth, a host of mighty warriors rose up fully grown! Cadmus named them Spartoi, or “sown men.” To test their vigor, he tossed a gem into their midst. Immediately the Spartoi began to fight over the prize. It was a bloody melee, and in the end only five were left alive.

Cadmus stopped the battle and took these fiercest fighters as his new companions. The city they founded was Thebes, one of the most powerful in all Greece. Even into historic times, the noble families of Thebes traced their lineage back to the five Spartoi.

And what about the other half of the dragon’s teeth? All shall be revealed on Tuesday!

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The Dragons Are Singing Tonight is a picture book from the notable children’s poet, Jack Prelutsky, with illustration by Peter Sis. It was published in 1993 by Greenwillow and is part of a set by the same author featuring other fantastic creatures such as ogres.

Each of the 17 short poems stands alone, yet connected by the general theme of dragons. There’s a good balance between short and snarky poems with longer, meditative ones. Although the focus is mostly on children wishing they could have dragons for pets, something longtime readers will know irritates me, Prelutsky does find time for the dragon’s perspective. Here’s the third of the volume:

If You Don’t Believe In Dragons, by Jack Prelutsky

If you don’t believe in dragons

It is curiously true

That the dragons you disparage

Choose not to believe in you.

My personal favorite is “I Am My Master’s Dragon,” a poignant statement of the pet dragon’s longing to be free. No matter how kindly the master may be, servitude of dragons to humans is a great wrong.

As you can tell from the vocabulary and ironic concepts, this is a book for the older-aged picture book reader, perhaps 9-12. It also could be read by parents to younger kids sitting in a lap. For adults, this is a brief and fond look back to our own days when every new book was an adventure waiting to happen. Thanks much to Princess of Dragons for cluing me into this one.

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