Dragon Masters

Dragon Masters cover

Dragon Masters #1: Rise of the Earth Dragon

By Tracey West, Illustrated by Graham Howells

 

Published by: Scholastic Inc. (August 26, 2014)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were three books in the Dragon Masters series, with a fourth book due out this summer.

 

Beginner fantasy.

Dragon Masters #1: Rise of the Earth Dragon is a primer for the pre-Harry Potter, pre-J.R.R. Tolkien set. With easy reading but lots of magical adventures, this new series from Scholastic’s excellent Branches line of chapter books glows with promise.

The story structure is a classic epic tale: the kind, poor Drake is identified as one of a chosen few. At the direction of the king, he is whisked away from his home and given the secret, mysterious fate of dragon master. Drake and his powerful but misunderstood dragon, Worm, muddle through the first days of loneliness and homesickness, and are more alike than they know. Each also reveals himself as having special powers. They save the day in the book, but it’s clear bigger challenges are still to come.

With evil afoot and three other dragons and children dragon masters, this series has long legs. It’s also an especially good fit for the newly independent reader. Pages are bright and almost overrun with illustrations. Chapters are extremely short. Action is fast-paced and abundant. The writing is clean, spare and lively. A young reader will probably age out of this reading level before he gets tired of the subject and characters. With few other fantasy-based chapter book series–apart from the massive Magic Tree House–this is a very welcome addition to the chapter book shelf.

The illustrations, by award-winning artist Howells, pop with youth-friendly charm. The black and white drawings bring fire-breathing life into magic, fear, danger, growing affection and a world of mystical powers. One can’t help but be entranced by the total package of Dragon Masters.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

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Dragonbreath

DragonbreathCoverDRAGONBREATH #9: The Case of the Toxic Mutants

By Ursula Vernon

 

Published by: Dial; Reprint edition (August 29, 2013)

Available in: hardcover, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were nine books in the Dragonbreath series.

 

The funny side of fear.

This could have been a Fright Month selection in October because it’s all about fear and monsters and things that make children go Eek! But Dragonbreath #9: The Case of the Toxic Mutants is also charming, funny and eccentric.

The book invites reluctant readers in with a start similar to a comic book. Then it morphs rather quickly into text with depth and bright humor. The protagonist is a young dragon with some serious problems: he can’t get one good friend to believe he’s a real dragon, and he has to visit his grumpy old granddad, which is icky and frightening all on its own. A mystery of missing dentures quickly turns into a crazy-beast-and-ooze fest, sure to attract young boys in particular.

The story is populated with characters and plot points that would otherwise give kids the chills.  From pack rats followed down dank, dark tunnels to dog vomit slime mold, Vernon’s book allows the truly horrible to be comic. Much of the humor is the kind that appeals to both adults and kids, so this might be a good series to read together.

In fact, if there’s a hesitation to this series, it’s that it skews a bit mature. Some of the jokes seem more for the parents than kids. In particular, one main character has a lisp so severe that much of his language is difficult to translate. For a newly independent reader, this might be over the top (i.e., “Dithcrethen ith the better part of valor.”)

And, be forewarned this skews to the older, more challenging chapter book. The publisher even lists it as ages 8—12. But the pictures, stories and anthropomorphized characters pull the appeal to the younger set as well.

The illustrations are easy and free, and there’s a lot of green goo gliding through the pages. It all slides together quite nicely for a little monster mystery.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….