Ghost Squad

The supernatural has always been a part of Lucely Luna’s life. Her father runs a ghost tour, and her hometown of St. Augustine is known for being the home of Las Brujas Moradas, aka the Purple Coven. And Lucely can see and converse with spirits, notably the spirits of her dead relatives. When her deceased family members aren’t in their human forms, they inhabit the old willow tree in the backyard as firefly spirits. However, her firefly family members recently flickered in and out of view, and then the fireflies began to fade.

Lucely and her friend, Syd, investigate how to revive her deceased family members. After learning more about Las Brujas Moradas, they visit Syd’s grandmother’s shop and steal a spell book that they need to revive Lucely’s family members. But when the two girls recite the spell, they accidentally awaken malicious spirits. The girls fight the ghosts, but all their efforts are for naught. They ask Babette, Sydney’s grandmother, for her help in fighting against the evil ghosts and reversing the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits.

The narrative focuses squarely on Lucely’s perspective. This close view allows the reader to understand the ghosts, magic, and Lucely’s personal life. The narrative’s linear structure, mixed with Babette’s conversations and the occasional inclusion of the school setting, makes the explanations about St. Augustine, the magic, and the Luna family history easy to understand. In addition, the Latino culture is on full display throughout the story, mainly through the mannerisms and the Spanish phrases that Lucely’s family members say to each other. Readers will relate to Lucely and Syd’s friendship and empathize with Lucely as she frets over her family members’ safety.

Lucely also learns about responsibility while getting rid of the evil ghosts. She is responsible for awakening the evil spirits, so she fixes her mistake and takes on more accountability for protecting the town. According to Lucely’s grandmother, their family has been “charged with keeping [St. Augustine] and its inhabitants safe.” By the end of the story, Lucely is assured of her identity and purpose in her community, which is an important lesson for younger readers.

Ghost Squad is a story that focuses on family, friendship, and culture. The story has a few slow moments, mostly spent establishing the town and the Dominican Republic and the Latino aspects of the Luna family. St. Augustine has many interesting characters, such as Syd, Babette, and the firefly spirits. Like the firefly spirits, Las Brujas Moradas and the human spirits are some of the many supernatural elements that add interest to St. Augustine. The story is also chock full of pop culture references, such as Harry Potter and the Ghostbusters, which adds a lot of humor. Readers of all ages will enjoy the story for its lessons on responsibility and friendship. Readers who like Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega will also enjoy The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The mist monster attacks the family tree. but the monster is injured when it claws the tree. “It clawed at the bark and howled, bringing its hand back against its chest as if it were burned.” The monster ran around the tree, growing in size until it became as big as a hurricane. The cocuyos repelled the mist monster with a spell. The monster was thrown back into the brush, but attacks the ghosts with fire: the fire misses, “the fire seemed to extinguish itself as soon as it reached her abuela.” The fight is described over two pages.
  • Babette fights a dragon to distract it from Lucely and Syd. The dragon attacked with a rain of fire, but Babette points her wand at the dragon and says a spell— “Reverse, rearward from whence you came! Back, back! Into the flames!” Violet fire shoots from the wand and hits the dragon in the eye. “It let out one final, bloodcurdling shriek, and then began to burn.” The fight lasts for one page.
  • Lucely and Syd use the Razzle-Dazzlers, which are enchanted flashlights, on the mist monster, causing the mist monster to vanish “in a shriek of pain.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Lucely uses the phrase “God forbid.”
  • Lucely uses the word “God” twice.

Supernatural

  • Ghosts, as in the spirits of humans, take the form of what they looked like when they died. Most ghosts are peaceful and hang around the graveyard or haunt the places where they died. There are also vengeful spirits of the dead that can possess the living.
  • Lucely’s deceased relatives have two forms as spirits; their human forms, and they take the shape of a firefly, dubbed “firefly spirits.”
  • One of Lucely’s deceased cousins floats up to the ceiling and relives his death. Lucely “could almost smell the rubber wafting around her cousin, like a strange and deadly aura.” When he wakes up, the cousin comes back to his senses.
  • The family uses a spell to get rid of the mist monster: “Away, away/We shall not fear/Away, foul beast,/And far away from here!”
  • In order to reanimate the family spirits, Lucely and Syd recite a spell from a scroll. They say, “Lavender, lilies, blossom and bloom,/ I call on the spirits to enter this room…/Rotten and putrid/Beneath the trees,/ I call on the spirits and let them roam free . . . ” Instead, they accidentally unleashed the undead, vengeful ghosts.
  • Syd makes a circle with salt in order to keep the evil spirits away. “The creature crashed into the salt circle and cried out in pain.”
  • Babette says a protection spell over the willow tree.
  • Babette and Lucely attack a storm of spirits using the energy of the spirits of the Las Brujas Moradas and the family spirits respectively. Babette says, “Las Brujas Moradas, hear us tonight./No longer in hiding, no longer in fright./Las Brujas Moradas, come to our call./No longer afraid, to tumble and fall./Las Brujas, Las Brujas, answer our plea./ Come to us now, from land and from sea./Take this demon away, tonight,/ Las Brujas Moradas./Take this demon from sight!” And Lucely says, “A sprinkle of sun,/ A shimmer of light/Turn back the darkness,/ Turn back the fright…I call on the power/of my ancestor’s ghosts/And speak three names, I love most…/Simon Luna, Teresa Luna, and Syd Faires!” A massive gateway forms in the sky and sucks all the bad ghosts into the void.

Spiritual Content

  • According to Lucely, in the Dominican Republic, there is a belief that the “spirits of your dead loved ones [live] on as fireflies.”

by Jemima Cooke

Knight Owl

Since the day he hatched, Owl has dreamed of becoming a real knight. He may not be the biggest or the strongest, but he believes that his sharp nocturnal instincts can help protect the castle, especially since many knights have recently gone missing. While holding guard during Knight Night Watch, Owl is faced with the ultimate trial—a frightening intruder. It’s a daunting duel by any measure. But what Owl lacks in size, he makes up for in good ideas.

Owl’s story comes to life in beautifully detailed illustrations that are shades of brown and blue. Owl’s small size is shown when he is working with the other knights, when he needs a ladder to see over the castle wall, and when a dragon towers over him. Despite his size, Owl reminds himself that he is a knight and knights are brave. When the dragon first appears, his face takes up an entire page, which allows his scales, angry eyes, and large teeth to pop off the page. Even though the dragon is frightening, Owl finds a way to connect to the dragon. Soon the two are talking about “how each of them had hatched from eggs [and] how much they liked the night.”

The story incorporates humorous wordplay. It also shows how Owl’s owlish traits help him be a good knight. For example, “the other knights usually fell asleep during the long Knight Night Watch, but Owl didn’t mind.” The illustrations also have fun elements such as the huge dragon reclining on the castle wall while enjoying a pizza.

Even though Knight Owl is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 4 sentences. The story’s word play and onomatopoeia make Knight Owl a fun book to read aloud.

Young readers who dream of dragons and knights will fall in love with Owl. The relationship between Owl and the dragon is endearing and it teaches the importance of not making assumptions based on how someone looks. Once Owl and the dragon talk, they discover “they really had a lot in common.” Owl doesn’t save the day by using his strength or a sword, but by being brave enough to befriend the dragon. Readers who love dragons should also read When Dragons are Dreaming by James Mayhew & Lindsey Gardiner. Readers ready for chapter books should read Roland Wright: Future Knight by Tony Davis.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • It is implied that the dragon ate some of the knights.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Dragon Myths

They’re called drakon in Greek, azhdaha in Persian, kelekona in Hawaiian, and they have different names in numerous other cultures as well. They’re dragons. Many cultures even agree on what the giant serpents look like, though they may differ on whether these mythical creatures are benevolent or evil. This compelling volume takes readers on a tour of world cultures and dragon lore. Sometimes, the folklore is entwined with actual historical events, such as a Roman general’s supposed encounter with a water-spewing dragon on a march to Africa.

Take a trip back in time and learn how so many myths about dragons became legends. Readers will learn how different cultures preserved their dragon lore as well as why so many people fear dragons. Included in the text are different examples of dragons that have always been warned against. The book has several examples of dragons that are referred to in literature. Readers will also learn why dragons were worshiped, feared, or even considered friendly in ancient civilizations.

 Dragon Myths is visually appealing. Each page has large illustrations that include short captions. In addition, each section is broken into smaller sections that have fun headlines such as “SWOOP, SLITHER, SLASH.” Another appealing aspect of the story is the fun facts that appear in a graphic that looks like a scroll. Throughout the book, readers will encounter bolded words that may be unfamiliar; however, the words are defined within the text making the passage easy to understand.

If you want to learn more about dragons, Dragon Myths is the perfect book for you. While none of the myths are covered in detail, the book will spark readers’ curiosity and give them different topics that they may want to research. Full of colorful pictures, interesting facts, and historical information, Dragon Myths will keep readers’ attention as they learn about the dragon lore.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Some old folktales warn about the tatzelwurm, a dwarfish dragon that “is said to gobble up travelers.”
  • In North America, legend tells of a “leech-like dragon. Get too close and the dragon might vomit foul liquid on you. Stunned, you’d fall into the raging waters. . .maybe your family would find your dead body washed ashore—nose and ears mysteriously sliced off.”
  • An Ethiopian legend tells of a dragon that “feasted on elephants!”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Ancient Egyptians believed in Gods such as a dragon with “a winged snake with three heads and four clawed feet” and “the goddess Mersokar and the god Chanuphis (or Bati).”
  • In the legends of Saint George, “a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity. . . In one town, he encounters a dragon, which he was certain was really the devil in disguise. George not only killed the dragon but also convinced the townsfolk to adopt Christianity.”
  • In Asia, many dragons were worshiped. “They were said to possess magical powers that included natural events.”

Knight-Napped

A pigeon lands on Danny Dragonbreath’s head and refuses to fly away. Attached to the pigeon’s leg is a note from Danny’s cousin, Spencer. Knights have kidnapped Spencer and they plan to slay him soon. Danny’s friends Christina and Wendell reluctantly agree to help Danny free his cousin Spencer.

Christina discovers that her relatives are the ones keeping Spencer locked in the tower. But before they can all save Spencer, Danny and Wendell are imprisoned in the dungeon. Christina is upset when she finds out that her relatives “are in the habit of kidnapping little kids and imprisoning them in towers.” In order to gain her family’s trust and free her friends, Christina pretends to hate dragons.

Danny, Wendell, and Christina all know their mothers would be upset to learn that they took a bus to Castle Wanderpool, but they need to save Spencer. Danny tries using his fire breathing skills to break out of the dungeon, but he only succeeds in catching the dungeon on fire. When Danny is thrown into the dungeon he thinks it’s “nothing compared to what his mom would do if she found out he’d been randomly breathing fire on people.”

Knight-Napped is full of surprises, fake fights, and friendship drama that will have readers laughing out loud. Danny’s story is told in a unique style that blends graphic novel and novel format. The text is broken up with illustrations and has several graphic novel scenes with speech balloons. The blend of text and pictures will help keep reluctant readers engaged in the story. The comic-style illustrations are mostly black and white, but they also have a pop of green.

Readers will laugh as Danny reluctantly tries to save Spencer. Danny “didn’t always like Spencer, but leaving him in a castle where they stuck dragon heads on walls—no. Just no. Danny Dragonbreath had his limits. He was going to get Spencer if he had to climb up the outside of the tower by himself.”

Danny, Christina, and Wendell’s adventure through the castle is hilarious. Readers will appreciate how the young knights try to satisfy their grandfather’s desire to have Freddy slay a dragon. Readers will relate to all of the characters—dragon, iguana, and knight—who are all afraid that their mothers will find out about their adventure. Knight-Napped is a wonderfully ridiculous, humorous story that will keep readers engaged until the very end. If you’re looking for a fun book series that kids will love to read, the Dragonbreath series is perfect.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Nobody actually fights, but the kids pretend to fight in order to make Freddie look brave in front of his grandfather.
  • Spencer and his friend Freddy pretend to fight. “Freddy managed to get on top and sat on the small dragon’s chest. . . [Freddy] actually had to climb off Spencer to get to the sword. Spencer waited politely on the ground.”
  • Christina charges at Danny. “He hit the sawdust floor of the arena and rolled. Christina swung her sword at him. She missed by a mile, but there was a nasty little whistle as the blade sliced through the air. . . Christina shook herself off, wiped ashes from her face—and charged him. Again. . . She slammed into him, shoulder first, and drove him back against the arena wall.”
  • During the fight, Danny “flamed. He frothed. He ran at Christina waving his arms and spouting smoke. . . He flung himself at Christina, caught her sword under one arm, and threw himself to the ground, kicking wildly.” The fighting is comedic. Danny and Spencer both pretend to be slain.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Danny and Wendell go into a castle’s moat, Wendell says, “I’m going to need antibiotics. This moat is nasty.”

Language

  • One of Danny’s classmates calls him dorkbreath.
  • As part of her master plan, Christina tries to help Danny while at the same time prove to her family that she was not friends with him. She yells at Danny. “Truly, dragons are vermin, lower than slugs, lower than flatworms! They are a vileness upon the earth! They stink!”
  • Christina calls dragons “scaly scum” and “foul dragon scum.”
  • There is some name calling. Idiot is used once. Dummy and jerk are both used once.
  • Oh my god is used as an exclamation once.
  • Darn and crud are both used once.

 

Rise of the Dragon Moon

Alone in a frozen world, Toli’s Queendom is at the mercy of the dragons who killed her father. She is certain it’s only a matter of time before they come back to destroy what’s left of her family. When the dragons rise and seize Toli’s mother, she will do anything to save her—even trust a young dragon who may be the key to the queen’s release.

With her sister and best friend at her side, Toli makes a treacherous journey across the vast ice barrens to Dragon Mountain, where long-held secrets await. Bear-cats are on their trail and dragons stalk them, but the greatest danger may prove to be a mystery buried in Toli’s past.

Readers will not want to start Rise of the Dragon Moon unless they have time to read the book in one sitting, because they will not be able to put the book down! Byrne builds a harsh, ice-covered world where dragons and humans are at odds. Right from the start, Toli’s conflict draws the reader into the story.

The story focuses on Toli, who is consumed with guilt about a secret she is keeping. Toli is a strong, determined character who doesn’t want to rely on others. While Toli is far from perfect, readers will admire her for her strength and willingness to put herself in danger to protect the people she loves. The story reinforces the idea that everyone makes mistakes, but “making them doesn’t mean we get to give up.”

Rise of the Dragon Moon is full of action and adventure and ends with an epic dragon battle. The well-developed characters are another positive aspect of the story. Readers will wish they had a friend like Wix, who was willing to fight bear-cats and dragons in order to help Toli. Although the dragons are not as well developed as the human characters, the main dragons all have unique personalities and ambitions which give the story added depth.

Throughout the story, one refrain is repeated several times—“The past was like the ice—it would never bend, but it would also never forget.” This phrase helps reinforce the idea that even though the past cannot be changed, the past does not need to define one’s future.

Besides being an incredible story, Rise of the Dragon Moon also shows the importance of trying to understand others—in this case, the dragons and humans must learn to communicate and work together to fight an unseen enemy. Even though the conclusion wraps up most of the story’s threads, Bryne leaves enough room for a possible sequel. Rise of the Dragon Moon will captivate readers with courageous characters who brave the danger of an icy wilderness in order to bring Toli’s mother home. Readers who love action, adventure, and dragons should also read Legends of the Sky by Liz Flanagan and Spark by Sarah Beth Durst.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The dragons attack a group of hunters. One dragon attacks Toli. “A single talon was half as tall as her . . . she saw the dragon’s tail coming, too fast, too huge. She took the impact in her gut and ribs, flying backward to smash into the cold, hard wall.” Only one hunter survives, but the deaths are not described.
  • A swarm of beetles attacks Toli, Petal, and Wix. When they attack, Toli “swing[s] her beater to knock a beetle out of the air. She swung again. Her arm gave a painful throb as the beater connected with another giant insect. Two down. . . From the corner of her eye, she could see Wix swinging his beater, knocking one after another to the ice.” Wix is injured.
  • A dragon named Krala gets angry at Toli. “Krala lashed the ice with her tail and lurched forward, snapping at Toli. . . Krala rattled and lunged, forcing them farther back.” Wix and Toli grab their bows and shoot. “Both arrows soared, straight and true, piercing Krala’s shoulder and chest, one behind the other. . . The dragon roared in pain, shaking ice under their feet.” Krala flies off.
  • Bear-cats attack Toli and her friends. “Wix fired. His arrow struck the new attacker’s shoulder. It let out a roar and put on a burst of speed. . . Petal cried out as Wix fired again, this time hitting the third one in the chest. It slowed, but the first one let out a roar and surged forward.
  • One of the bear-cats goes after Ruby. “Ruby veered away at the last moment, slashing with her talons as she passed. The bear-cat’s jaws snapped shut and came away with feathers. Its shoulder was bleeding. . .” The fight is described over three pages.
  • The dragons battle to see who will be their leader. Toli is in the middle of the battle. “The air was rife with growls and the sound of tearing flesh. . . Scorched feathers drifted down like ash, bringing with them the scent of burning.” Toli tries to find safety. “Toli rose from the ground and stumbled sideways. She caught herself on the charred ground, crying out as a long slice opened across her palm.”
  • Toli runs from the battle. “Blood stained the ground. The yellow dragon lurched forward, snapping its jaws as Toli switched directions. . .”
  • Spar, a human, tries to stab the Mother dragon. “The Mother took two running steps to meet her attacker. Barbed quills flew like arrows. One caught Spar in the shoulder and she fell to the ground, sending up a plume of fine gray dust.” Spar holds a blade against Toli’s neck. “The blade of her knife pressed tightly against Toli’s skin.” Toli is uninjured. The battle takes place over nine pages.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • In Toli’s world, the adults drink honeywine.

Language

  • The dragons call a human “bone bag” and “puny bite.”
  • “Thank the stars” is used as an exclamation once.
  • “Nya’s bless, child” and “Nya’s light” are both used as an exclamation once.
  • Hailfire is used as an exclamation several times.
  • Toli calls a dragon a coward.

Supernatural

  • Toli looks into a “silver liquid” and sees into the future.

Spiritual Content

  • When the dragons were awake, “everyone in Gall would take cover and pray to the Daughter Moon to keep them safe.”
  • Toli’s people tell a creation story, where Nya was lonely so she decided to make “the creatures of her dreams. . . with each passing cycle of Father Moon, Nya made new souls to join the people, hiding them from her father on an island of sand and stone under the black rock ledge.” Nya created people from “basalt, and sand, and shell” and made everyone look different.
  • When Toli’s mother is taken, Toli “prayed for Nya to show her where the dragon had taken her mother.”
  • When the dragon Ruby becomes ill, Toli “closed her eyes and sent a fervent prayer soaring out to the Daughter Moon to keep Ruby alive.”
  • When a dragon wants Toli to give her Ruby, Toli “prayed the folds of her cape would hide the dragon’s lithe form.”
  • When Toli is reunited with her mother, her mother says, “Thank Nya’s light, you’re all right!”

 

The Baby Firebird

Talia lives in a tropical rain forest that is home to a flock of magical firebirds. She meets a baby firebird, Riki. The firebird is curious about the human world. As Riki explores Talia’s house, Lord Fortescue appears. He’s determined to imprison all of the firebirds. When Lord Fortescue finds out about the Cave of Wonders, he’s convinced he can capture the birds and find treasure. Riki, Talia, and her friend Lucas go into the rainforest so they can warn the firebirds to hide.

The firebirds are able to hide from Lord Fortescue, but the evil man and his soldiers put huge boulders in front of the Cave of Wonders. Without the heat from the magical waters, the firebirds become weak. The stones are too large for Talia and Lucas to move. Even though it may be dangerous, the two friends go to wake up a sleeping dragon, who reluctantly agrees to help the firebirds.

The Baby Firebird quickly draws readers into the story and keeps them in suspense until the very end. Even though Lord Fortescue and his soldiers are dangerous, the kids only have one interaction with them. For the rest of the story, they are either spying on Lord Fortescue or hiding from him. However, the evil man adds a non-fighting villain to the plot.

Talia and Lucas are likable, brave characters. Even though humans are not allowed into the forest, Talia and Lucas break the rule because it was the only way to warn the firebirds about Lord Fortescue. Later, the dragon agrees to help the firebirds, but only if Talia gives him her sparkly rock. Even though the Speaking Stone is special, Talia puts the firebirds’ needs first and gives the stone to the dragon. In the end, Talia recognizes that Lord Fortescue and his soldiers, “wanted to find gold, but they missed the real treasure that’s already here—the animals!”

The first book in the series, The Sky Unicorn, introduced Sophy and the magical stones. Even though Sophy makes an appearance in all of the books, readers do not need to read the stories in order. Each book focuses on a new main character, which adds interest to the series. The story uses easy vocabulary, simple sentence structure, and black and white illustrations to make The Baby Firebird accessible to readers. Illustrations appear every 2-4 pages and help readers understand the plot.

The Baby Firebird is a fast-paced, suspenseful chapter book that has wide appeal. Young readers will admire Talia for her kindness, bravery, and selflessness. Talia’s behavior shows the importance of protecting animals, including staying out of animals’ habitats. Readers who enjoy animal stories should also add Rainbow Magic Series by Daisy Meadows and the Enchanted Pony Academy Series by Lisa Ann Scot to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Talia meets a baby firebird. “Talia knew the flames must be magical, as they never scorched the flowers or leaves.”
  • Firebirds get their magic from the Cave of Wonders, which is a “magical fire pool.” Talia “touched the golden surface with her fingers and drew back her hand immediately, surprised by the tickly feeling in her fingers.”
  • Talia is given a magical Speaking Stone that allows her to talk to magical creatures.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Dragon’s Merry Christmas

As Christmas nears, Dragon is excited to decorate. First, Dragon looks for the perfect Christmas tree. Then, he makes a candy wreath, but Dragon keeps eating the sweet chocolates. Eventually, all of the candy is gone and Dragon has a stomachache. Eating too much candy isn’t Dragon’s only problem. He has also lost his mittens. Dragon comes up with a creative solution, but then he loses his coat. Finally, Dragon shops for presents for himself. As he walks home, Dragon ends up giving all of his gifts to others.

Dragon’s Merry Christmas is divided into four short stories, and the first three have surprise endings. Young readers will enjoy Dragon’s adventure and the unexpected endings. In the final story, Dragon shows compassion when he sees others who are in need. For example, Dragon sees “some raccoons singing in the street. The raccoons had no food to eat. They looked hungry.” Dragon doesn’t think twice about giving the raccoons “his big basket of food.” By the time Dragon makes it back home, his bag is empty. “There were no presents left for him. But Dragon did not feel sad.”

Readers will relate to Dragon as he struggles not to eat too much candy and loses his mittens. The four short stories have entertaining, yet simple plots. Each page has 1-4 easy-to-read sentences and large illustrations. Dragon’s Merry Christmas is intended for children who are learning to read. With simple text, humor, and full-color illustrations on every page, Dragon’s Merry Christmas will help readers build confidence and fluency. If you’re ready to dig out Christmas tree lights and decorate for the season, Dragon’s Merry Christmas will help get you into the holiday spirit.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Dragons and Marshmallows

Zoey discovers a glowing photo in her mother’s bedroom and her mother shares an amazing secret. Zoey’s mother has been helping injured animals who come to their backyard barn for help. Since her mom is going on a trip, it’s up to Zoey to keep watch on the magical photo for any animals that appear. But when a baby dragon appears, Zoey isn’t sure how to help. With the help of Sassafras, Zoey’s cat, Zoey must figure out what is wrong with the dragon. Will they be able to help the little dragon before it’s too late?

Dragons and Marshmallows will appeal to younger readers and parents. Zoey is an adventurous, bug-loving girl who uses science to solve problems. The curious cat Sassafras stays by Zoey’s side and adds some humor. Even though much of the conflict revolves around helping a baby dragon, Zoey also worries about her mom going on a trip. Zoey “felt a little nervous about not seeing her for a whole week.”

Little Marshmallow, an adorable magical dragon, is weak and must rely on Zoey for help. Zoey jumps right in and documents her experience in her science journal. In order to help Little Marshmallow, Zoey reads books that have fun reptile facts. After learning about reptiles, Zoey comes up with a hypothesis and makes a list of necessary materials. When Zoey writes in her science journal, the font changes to a large, kid-like font and occasionally uses illustrations. One of the best aspects of the story is that Zoey does not succeed the first time; instead, she makes mistakes and must use trial and error before she succeeds in helping the dragon.

Zoey’s adventure is shown through large black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page. Sassafras appears in many of the pictures, and clearly loves bugs just as much as Zoey. At one point, Zoey tells Sassafras, “I do not trust you out here with my bugs. My new little friends are not a snack!” Readers who are not fluent will need help with some of the vocabulary. However, with short paragraphs, plenty of dialogue, and a simple plot, Dragons and Marshmallows is accessible to most readers.

Dragons and Marshmallows combines magical animals, a relatable character, and the scientific method into an entertaining story that children will love. Zoey and Sassafras will not only entertain readers but also teach important lessons along the way. Readers will learn about reptiles, the importance of eating healthy foods, and perseverance. The end of the book has a glossary that explains unfamiliar terms. Even though Zoey and Sassafras is a series, the books do not need to be read in order. Readers who want more magical animal fun will also enjoy The Last Firehawk Series by Katrina Charman.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A frog told Zoey’s mom that “he’d been out past dark looking for something he’d dropped during the day. An owl attacked him. He was terrified and hurt, but managed to escape.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When Zoey’s mother was a child, she found an injured frog. When she helped it, “the frog looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, ‘Thank you!’” The frog told other magical animals that Zoey’s mom would help them if they were injured.
  • Not everyone can see the magical animals. Zoey’s mom explains that the picture of the magical frog glows “because of the magic. Any time you photograph a magical creature, some of the magic stays in the photo.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Dragon Thief

Jaxon had just one job—to return three baby dragons to the realm of magic. When he got there, only two dragons were left in the bag. His best friend’s sister, Kavita, is a dragon thief!

Kavita only wanted what was best for the baby dragon. Now every time she feeds it, the dragon grows and grows! How can she possibly keep it secret? Even worse, stealing the dragon has upset the balance between the worlds, and the gates to the other realm have shut tight! Jaxon needs all the help he can get to find Kavita, outsmart a trickster named Blue, and return the baby dragon to its true home.

The sequel to Dragons in a Bag continues Jaxon’s story; however, many of the characters from the first book only make a very brief appearance. Instead, The Dragon Thief jumps back and forth between Jaxon’s and Kavita’s points of view. Jaxon and Kavita both want to return the dragon to the realm of magic, but they don’t work together until the very end. Much of the story focuses on both Jaxon and Kavita trying to figure out how to return the dragon. With talking animals, magic, and a cast of helpful characters, the story has many interesting elements.

Readers may be disappointed that the dragon rarely appears in the story. However, several new characters add interest to the story. Jaxon meets a feisty fairy and gains the help of a classmate. At one point Jaxon thinks, “A week ago, a talking pigeon would have freaked me out. But over the past few days, I’ve encountered a very determined squirrel, actual dinosaurs, a talking rat, and three baby dragons. I’ve learned to take it all in stride.”

The Dragon Thief hints at some important themes, but they are undeveloped. Several times the story mentions slavery and freedom, but the information is not integrated into the story and seems random. Jaxon’s family only appears at the end of the story, but he thinks, “This is my family. Sure, we’re different from other families. Ma’s a witch, and I’m her apprentice. Mama’s a widow, and Trub’s reformed thief. We’ve all made mistakes—big and small—but we stick together because that’s what you do when you love someone.”

The Dragon Thief has some interesting elements, but the undeveloped plot will leave readers with many questions. One positive aspect of the story is that both Jaxon and Kavita are diverse characters who want what’s best for the dragon. Overall, The Dragon Thief has enough mystery and magic to interest fantasy fans, but the abrupt ending and the many characters may confuse some readers.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • At the end of the story, Ma tells Jaxon, “Then let’s get this party started boy! Bring me a beer!” Ma means a root beer, but readers won’t know that unless they’ve read the first book in the series.”

Language

  • As Jaxon is walking in a park, he almost steps on “a pile of dog crap.”
  • Kavita’s brother tells his friend that Kavita is a brat and a “pain in the butt.”
  • A boy tells Jaxon that “a lot of kids at our school are jerks.” Later, the same boy says Blue is a jerk.
  • While looking for Blue, Jaxon asks a rat for help. The rat tells Jaxon, “Blue’s a nasty piece of work. Trash, really…He hasn’t got a selfless bone in his freaky blue body.”
  • A boy calls Blue a creep.
  • Three times, someone calls the trickster Blue a fool.
  • Blue calls Jaxon and his friends “rotten brats.”

Supernatural

  • Ma is a witch who can travel to another dimension where magic exists.
  • Kavita and Aunty go to see Bejan, an astrologer and psychic. Bejan explains, “Jyotisha, or the science of light, involves the study of the stars and planets.” Bejan uses a dragon’s birthday to give Kavita and Aunty advice.
  • Jaxon can talk to animals.
  • Jeff, a fairy, “raises his arms once more, but this time when he lowers them, a circle of blue light appears. It’s as if the fairy traced a bubble in the air and then willed it into existence.” The bubble allows Jaxon to talk to someone who is in another dimension.
  • Blue takes animals from another dimension and turns them into tattoos. Blue explains, “These are my guests… We share space and show respect… Real tattoos are permanent, but these…are just temporary.” Later, Blue’s tattoos are taken away. “We see movement beneath his clothing and hear a faint clamor as Sis extracts the creatures tattooed on Blue’s skin. One by one the mermaid, parrot, sea serpent, unicorn, and others peel off and float toward Sis. Still in miniature, the creatures huddle together and are soon encased in a clear spear that forms above Sis’s outstretched palm.” The creatures are taken back to the realm of magic.
  • Blue uses the tattoos to give him power. He creates “potions, spells, curses, and hexes. Everything humans most desire—love, wealth, revenge, success. Put it in a bottle and slap on a price tag.”
  • A dragon appears and then changes into a “human form.”
  • Jaxon is given a potion that will wake up Ma. He is instructed to put three drops in a glass of water “before the moon wanes.” When Ma drinks the potion, she awakens.
  • In order to transport the dragon to the proper diminution, “Sis points at the creature and draws a circle around it once, twice, and by the third time another elastic sphere has formed. Unlike Blue’s tattoos, however, the dragon doesn’t accept its fate. It whines and claws against the sphere, but to no avail.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Storm Dragon

Sophy was picking apples in an orchard when a cute dragon falls from the sky. The injured little dragon, named Cloudy, is in danger. The queen and the captain of the guard don’t like magical creatures. Sir Fitzroy and his guards are searching everywhere for Cloudy. They want to lock him in the dungeon.

With the help of a magical stone, Sophy is able to talk to Cloudy. It will take courage and creativity to keep Cloudy safe. With the help of a friend, Sophy knows how she can help heal Cloudy’s injured wing…but how can Sophy sneak Cloudy out of the castle, find the healing plant, and save her cute purple friends?

The Dragon Storm shows that you don’t have to be royal in order to be special. Sophy is a castle maid, but she is still able to keep Cloudy safe. Sophy’s kind nature shines as she smuggles Cloudy into the castle. Suspense is created as Sir Fitzroy and his guards hunt for the dragon; however, his exploits are silly and will cause readers to giggle. Readers will enjoy seeing Cloudy using his magic to stop Sir Fitzroy from yelling at Sophy. With a cute dragon, a sweet friendship, and a fairy tale setting, The Dragon Storm will delight younger readers.

The story uses easy vocabulary, simple sentence structure, and black and white illustrations to make The Storm Dragon accessible to younger readers. Illustrations appear every 1-3 pages, and they help readers understand the story’s plot. Readers will fall in love with Sophy and will be excited to read the next book in the series, The Sky Unicorn. Much like Harrison’s Rescue Princess Series, The Secret Rescuers will encourage readers to be kind to animals, brave in the face of danger, and ready to help a friend in need.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Cloudy eats dragonweed. Sophy picks some of the plant and “Cloudy munched those too and then flapped his wings. This time his injured left wing looked as strong as the right one!”

Language

  • When a guard says he doesn’t believe a dragon is near the castle, Sir Fitzroy yells, “It was a dragon, you fool!”

Supernatural

  • Sophy finds a magic “Speaking Stone” that allows her to talk to dragons. A dragon tells Sophy, “A Speaking Stone is very powerful and very precious. Each stone chooses a keeper and will work for the person alone.”
  • When the Queen and Sir Fitzroy yell at Sophy, Cloudy causes a gust of wind. “Then a sheet floated out of the basket, followed by a pair of the queen’s royal bloomers, trimmed with golden thread… More clothes and sheets sailed into the hall as the wind become wilder… Five small whirlwinds were sneaking across the hall, twisting and turning as if they were dancing. The silverware rattled on the banquet table, and the royal tablecloth flew upward, scattering pie crumbs everywhere.”
  • Cloudy is a storm dragon. Storm dragons “bring rain clouds from the ocean and blow them across the dry land. My brother says that’s how the trees and flowers and vegetables get the water they need to grow.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Legends of the Sky

Milla has heard the dragon legends. She has seen the dragon murals. But everyone says the dragons who used to rule the skies are gone forever.

Servant girl Milla witnesses a murder and finds herself caring for the last four dragon eggs. She tries to keep the eggs’ existence a secret, but soon, the eggs are in Duke Olvar’s possession. When the dragons hatch, Milla and her friends vow to stay with the dragons and protect them from harm. Milla and her friends try to learn how to care for their dragons, but it soon becomes clear that the dragons must belong to the city, not to the Duke.

Tensions in the city are growing due to Duke Olvar’s dislike of anyone who isn’t a Norlander, like him. The Duke wants to control the city and continues to put restrictions on those of Sartolans descent. In order to protect the Norlanders, the Duke decides that “anyone of Norlander descent got to wear a black dragon badge on their clothes—the Duke’s own symbol. Everyone else had to wear a badge in the shape of a ship, to show they were newly arrived.”

Soon Milla and her friends find themselves in the middle of a battle between the Duke’s soldiers and the Sartolans. How can Milla and her friends keep the dragons safe? Should they join the battle or stay safely tucked away in the Duke’s mansion?

Flanagan builds a complicated island city that is under the Duke’s tight control. As Milla learns more about dragons, she also discovers that the Duke will do anything to bond with one. The Duke wants control of the dragons, so he keeps Milla, her three friends, and the dragons in the dragonhall. While under the Duke’s watchful eyes, Milla’s friendships begin to fracture.

Told from Milla’s point of view, readers will fall in love with Milla and her dragons. Milla is a complex character who struggles to do what is right. Milla struggles with her inability to help her Sartolans friends. Readers will understand Milla’s problems with her friends, her hope for the future, and her desire to keep her dragons safe.

Politics, deadly intrigue, and dragons combine to make a fast-paced story where danger hides in the shadows. The story’s complex plot and the violent conclusion make Legends of the Sky the perfect book for confident readers. With shifting loyalties, new friendships, and the struggle for power, The Legends of the Sky explores the topics of power, discrimination, and friendship. Through Milla’s point of view, the reader will come to understand that discrimination hurts everyone. Legends of the Sky is a beautifully written, action-packed story that will leave readers wanting a dragon of their own.

 Sexual Content

  • Tayra is upset when she finds out that her father has arranged her marriage to Vigo. After she gets to know him, the two are playing when Taya “reached up and kissed Vigo.”

Violence

  • Milla is hiding in a tree when she sees a man killed. “A gloved hand pressed a knife against the cloaked man’s throat. . . His knife dug into the flesh of the man’s neck. A thin trickle of blood ran down the blade. . . Afterward, she [Milla] still saw the sudden spray of scarlet against a terracotta pot. She heard the heavy slump as the body hit the ground.”
  • When the dragon eggs begin to hatch, the duke “lifted the egg, and broke it against the surface of polished wood . . . the egg shattered with a damp crunch. The duke pulled it apart, flicking away pieces of shell with his fingers. He lifted up a limp body streaked with blood. . . The dragon didn’t move.”
  • A woman tells a story about the past when “Rufus murdered his cousin Silvano. . .” The murder is not described.
  • An “idiot” soldier accidently started a fire in the prison. The guards flee without trying to help the prisoners escape. Milla and others try to help the prisoners escape. The prison “was ablaze, sending plumes of smoke and fire shooting high into the night sky. . . There were bodies scattered across the dockside. Some were moving. A few were not. . .Six people had died that night.”
  • When a dragon named Heral flies over the city, a soldier shoots an arrow at it. “One arrow buried itself in Heral’s side. He screamed. A plume of fire shot from his open mouth.” The dragon blows fire towards the soldiers. “Now the archers screamed, arms raised in feeble defense. Milla saw bows burning, arrows torched in midair. A man leapt into the sea, ablaze.” Tayra is able to help her dragon. “Tayra pulled the arrow cleanly from the flank: a shallow wound, but a bloody one.”
  • During an argument, the duke “struck his wife across the face.”
  • A riot breaks out. During the fighting, Milla “almost stepped on a dead soldier. A man in the duke’s livery, on his back, staring sightlessly at the gray sky.” Milla takes a shield from a dead soldier. As Milla tries to reach her friends, “A sword crashed down on her shield with such force that she fell, winded, then rolled to avoid the next blow. . . She struck back, catching the soldier low, in his thigh. She slammed her shield in his face and he fell, lost under feet that danced and stamped and leapt to stay alive.” During the fight, the duchess is killed and Milla is injured. The riot is described over three pages.
  • Milla and her friends try to flee the island. Soldiers try to stop them. When Milla got onto the boat, she heard “the clashing of steel, followed by a scream of pain. She twisted to look. One man lay on the floor. Nestan was upright, clutching his sword arm, dark red blood seeping through his fingers.” Another one of Milla’s friends, Simon, “had his wooden staff that he used to parry and block. With a grunt, he twisted it around and landed a hard blow in the man’s gut with one end. . . Simon slammed the broadside into his chin. He slumped to the ground, unconscious.”
  • The book ends with an epic battle. Tayra “let her arrows fly faster than ever. . .” Tayra, her dragon, and Vigo fight side by side. “They cut through the duke’s forces, leaving a trail of ash and black-clad bodies so that Carlo’s army found their way clear.”
  • During the battle, someone grabs Milla, and “her injured ribs burned in agony. . . Black dots danced before her eyes, and she struggled not to pass out.” Milla is able to get away, and she “grabbed a chair and flung it at Richal Finn, aiming for his sword arm. He stumbled but didn’t fall.” Milla’s dragon used his bulk to pin Richal Finn down. Richal Finn fights back and “he kicked out viciously, catching Iggie square on his leg wound. The wound gaped open, right down to the bone: it gleamed palely through, making Milla feel sick.”
  • The duke grabs his sword and threatens to smash the dragon eggs. Isak “threw his whole body weight at Olvar [the duke] and pushed him aside. Duke Olvar pushed Isak away, sending him staggering backward.” In order to protect her eggs, the dragon “blasted Duke Olivar with a massive stream of fire. Olvar caught the worst of it, but Finn’s clothes also burst into flame. He fell to the floor with a hideous shriek.” The battle is described over 13 pages. The duke dies.
  • The story alludes to the fact that the duke used to hit his wife, Serina. After Serina is injured, Milla “watched his [Serina’s son] work, remembering what Serina had said about all the times her son had tended to her injuries. She didn’t ask how Serina had gotten those inures. She didn’t need to.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • An angry boy yells at his father, “You’re not even a soldier, not anymore. We only have your word that you ever were. You probably hurt your leg falling down drunk outside a tavern.”
  • Milla sees a man on his way to teach fighting skills to a girl. She tells him, “I’ll have a skin of ale cooling in the well for you afterward, shall I?”
  • A girl plans to go to a party. She was “planning to borrow a bottle of sweet Sartolan wine from her parents’ stall for the street party.” Later, the girl tells Milla that the wine helped her make some friends.
  • A woman tells Milla a story from the past, when the dragonriders had a disagreement. A dragonrider named Rufus “laced their evening meal with poison: just enough to send Karys and her cousin Silvano into a deep sleep. They awoke in the dragonhall to find themselves in chains.”
  • When Milla goes to visit a friend, the woman poured them “a small measure of sweet Arcosi wine.”
  • Someone gives Milla gifts, which include wine.
  • When Milla is put in jail, her friends poison the guards. “We baked treats for the guards—a special reward for their hard work. . . they’ll sleep all day, sore head tomorrow. Josi knows her poisons. . .”
  • The duke poisoned a dragon, but “the poison wore off after half a day.” However, when the dragon awoke, she was “in chains.”

Language

  • A soldier calls a group of prisoners “Sartolan scum.”
  • A woman calls recent arrivals “filthy dock rats.” Later someone says, “Dock rats! Throw them into the sea.”
  • When the duke orders soldiers to clear the docks of people, Milla yelled, “Where the hell are you going to clear them to?”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The duke talks about the past, when his people fled their home country. He says it had been “Fifty years since our prayers were answered and we found Arcosi waiting for us.”
  • Occasionally, Milla sends out a prayer, but she never mentions a specific god. For example, when she sneaks out of the house, she “sent a prayer out into the pale morning. . .” Later Milla “prayed that Nestan would listen to his daughter now.” Milla prays twelve times throughout the story.

Gotta Warn the Unicorns

Princess Pulverizer is so close to completing the Quest of Kindness that will allow her to go to Knight School. Before she can do her next good deed, she needs to help Fortune—a unicorn she recently rescued—find his family.

When a cowardly king orders his knight to capture all the unicorns they can, it’s up to the princess and her pals to warn the unicorns before it’s too late. But first they have to find them. Can Princess Pulverizer, her friend Lucas, and Dribble the dragon save the unicorns?

With her same feisty attitude, Princess Pulverizer faces King Harvey the Lion-Hearted. The cowardly king is convinced someone is trying to poison him and the only solution is to find a unicorn horn. When his knights present the king with a false unicorn horn, Princess Pulverizer shows off her unicorn knowledge and explains why the horn is not truly from a unicorn. She didn’t mean to endanger the unicorns, but her prideful nature has made King Harvey send his knights out on a unicorn hunt.

Princess Pulverizer is determined to fix her mistake and save the unicorns. Readers will giggle as Princess Pulverizer and her friends trick the king’s knights. King Harvey’s ridiculous behavior also adds humor. However, some of the story’s humor comes from the gassy king who likes to eat beans. The story’s comedy doesn’t interfere with the important message of not showing off.

Gotta Warn the Unicorns has a spunky, selfish princess who is trying to learn to be more like a knight. In the end, she praises her friend Lucas and asks King Harvey to give Lucas the magic lion charm. The story’s conclusion will leave readers curious about where Lucas’s newfound courage will lead them. Readers will be eager to grab the next book in the series, Yo-Ho, Yo . . . NO!

Gotta Warn the Unicorns is perfect for readers who are ready for chapter books. The story contains easy vocabulary and short paragraphs. Black-and-white illustrations appear frequently and add humor to the story. Gotta Warn the Unicorns will engage readers and encourage them to be kind to others.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mirror that shows the future.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic ring that allows her to enter a room in complete silence.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic arrow. “If ever the holder of the arrow finds themselves lost, it will always point them toward home.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mace that has “the power to heal the wounds of anyone on the side of all that is good and right.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a truth-telling sword. “If someone is lying, it will wiggle. But if he’s telling the truth, it will lie still.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Dragon’s Tale

Princess Pulverizer plans to become a knight. But first, she has to complete her Quest of Kindness and complete eight good deeds. Princess Pulverizer is determined to make her dream come true. Her dragon friend Dribble dreams of being a chef. He wants to run his own restaurant, but when people see him, they run away.

The villagers start feeling sick to their stomachs and so does Dribble. Due to a bad bellyache, Dribble accidentally sets a barn on fire. Everyone in town is angry at Dribble. How can Princess Pulverizer prove that Dribble isn’t a typical fire-breathing dragon that loves to burn buildings down? Is there any way the two will make their dreams come true?

Princess Pulverizer isn’t a typical princess. She doesn’t dream about dresses, but instead wants to be a knight. The tough princess is selfish, spoiled, and snobby. With the help of her friends, she is trying to be more kind. However, she still has a hard time not focusing on herself. Although Princess Pulverizer will never be a perfect princess, she has determination and spunk.

The princess and her friends discover that a polluted river is the reason people are getting sick. The story missed an opportunity to teach readers about the harmful nature of trash. At one point both Dribble and Lucas drink from the polluted river. In the end, the river is not cleaned up by hard work but by magic.

The Dragon’s Tale is perfect for readers who are ready for chapter books. The story contains easy vocabulary and short paragraphs. Black-and-white illustrations appear frequently and add humor to the story. The illustrations show Princess Pulverizer’s facial expression and her vast emotions in a humorous way.

Even though The Dragon’s Tale doesn’t have the same learning value as the previous book in the series, it will appeal to many readers. The high-interest story doesn’t only includes a princess, a friendly dragon, and a unicorn. Dribble’s desire to open a restaurant gives the story a unique twist. In the end, Princess Pulverizer helps Dribble make his dream a reality—at least for a day. Fairy tale fans will enjoy watching Princess Pulverizer and her friends travel through the kingdom and working together to overcoming their obstacles.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Ralf was attempting to juggle on stage. When he messes up someone said, “You stink!” Then the person threw a tomato at his head. Some people in the crowd also “threw wilted lettuce and rotting tomatoes at the stage.”
  • Ralf throws a lasso at a unicorn. “The unicorn looked up, frightened. And as he lifted his head, the lasso swung down over him, catching around his neck. . . He dragged the unicorn closer to the woods, where he had a cage on wheels hidden in the trees, waiting. Then he forced the unicorn into the cage and slammed the door shut.”
  • When Ralf tells a lie the unicorn “made a sudden turn, then jabbed Ralf in the leg with its horn.” When Ralf tells another lie, the unicorn “lowered his head and butted Ralf right in the rear end.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Several characters refer to Lucas being “lily-livered.” For example, Princess Pulverizer said, “Besides, I thought you were trying hard not to be so lily-livered.”

Supernatural

  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mirror that shows the future.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a truth-telling sword. “If someone is lying, it will wiggle. But if he’s telling the truth, it will lie still.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic arrow. “If ever the holder of the arrow finds themselves lost, it will always point them toward home.”
  • Princess Pulverizer and her friends need to help the town clean up the polluted river. In order to clean up the river, Princess Pulverizer says, “all we have to do is get the unicorn to stick his horn in the river, and it will be cleaned up in an instant.” They find the unicorn and “when the unicorn reached the water’s edge, he dipped his horn into the river. There was a flash of light. A sweet smelling wind blew through the trees. And in an instant, the river was clean.”
  • Princess Pulverizer is given a magical handkerchief and told, “hold it to your nose, and you will be able to smell things miles away.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

When Fairies Go Bad

Everyone knows rule #1 in the dragon world: Never, ever mess with a dragon’s mama. So when Danny Dragonbreath’s mom gets kidnapped by fairies, Danny, his best friend Wendell, and know-it-all Christiana hop on the first bus to the Faerie realm to show those fairies who’s boss. But these are not the sparkly Tinkerbell kind of fairies. These guys play dirty. Escaping fairyland with Danny’s mom is no easy task, even for a sort-of-fire-breathing dragon.

When Fairies Go Bad uses fairy folklore to create a hilarious, action-packed story that will have readers giggling. When Danny’s mother is kidnapped by fairies, Danny and his friends, Wendell and Christiana, are determined to save her. As they march through fairyland, they must stay on the path in order to stay safe. However, several of fairyland’s creatures try to trick the three friends into straying off the path. Fairyland’s creatures are more silly than scary, and readers will enjoy seeing how the friends work together to keep focused on their goals.

While in fairyland, Christiana is cursed and all of her sentences must end in a rhyme. To add to the humor, Christiana also doesn’t believe she is really in fairyland. At one point she says, “Yet more talking mammal dreams? My subconscious is obsessed, it seems.” Christiana’s rhymes add humor to the story. Readers will enjoy the humor of the story as well as how Danny and his friends are able to free Danny’s mother.

Green and black illustrations add to the allure of the book. Drawings with dialogue balloons help break up the text and keep the action moving. Dragonbreath shows the value of friendship and will get even the most reluctant readers engaged in the story. Although When Fairies Go Bad is the seventh book of the Dragonbreath series, the story can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story. Readers who enjoy the Dragonbreath series may also want to try The Notebook of Doom Series by Troy Cummings.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Danny wakes up in the middle of the night because he hears a strange noise. “The music rose to a screaming whine, and something reached out of the fairy right, closed over Danny’s mother’s wrist, and yanked her into the right. She vanished. The music halted as if it had been cut with a knife.” Danny’s mother is kidnapped by fairies.
  • Danny finds his mom, who was locked in a cage by the fairies.
  • When Danny tries to talk to his mom, “the fairy king waved a hand. Danny’s mother’s voice cut off abruptly. Her mouth kept moving, but no sound came out. She realized she’d been muted. . .”
  • The fairy king threatens to turn Danny’s mom into a tree. Danny “had no idea what he’d do if the king actually did turn her into a tree. Take her home and plant her in a nice pot in the backyard? Keep her watered with coffee?”
  • Creatures follow Danny and his friends. “Figures staggered out of the woods, moving with jerky, shuddering steps. When they got a little closer, Danny realized that they were little more than sticks lashed together. They didn’t have heads or hands or anything, just twigs animated by some malign magic. . . Wooden claws closed on Danny’s shoulder. Another one grabbed at his mother. . .” Danny breathes fire and “the wood dried up beautifully. The twig-creature dropped him and staggered back.”
  • When the fairy king sends a guard after Danny and his friends, “Danny’s mother lunged at the fairy guard. The fairy plainly hadn’t been paying attention to her at all and went down under a hundred and sixty pounds of very angry female dragon.”
  • Danny threatens to turn a pig into bacon.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Danny’s friend looks at some mushroom in Danny’s yard. The friend says the mushrooms “look like an Amanita to me. They’re really poisonous. Some of them make you hallucinate too.”

Language

  • Christiana has been cursed and must rhyme all of her words. She tells Danny, “Thanks, dude. . . I think I’m screwed.”
  • While in fairyland, Christiana thinks, “We got too close to the mushrooms in your yard, and now we’re hallucinating hard.”
  • Christiana shows a fairyland creature a spook and asks, “Is this what you’re after, you ugly moose-pafter?”
  • Danny’s mother tackles a guard. The guard then asks, “What the heck was that?”
  • Danny’s grandfather says that fairies are “mean little cusses.”

Supernatural

  • A fairy says a curse, “Ash and bone and hag-skin fat, boar’s black tongue and snout of bat, the rhymer’s curse I lay upon thee—from dawn to dusk in heart of faerie.” After Christiana is cursed, all of her sentences have to rhyme at the end. When Christiana says a word that can’t rhyme, she has “the mother of all coughing fits. She rolled around, tearing up handfuls of grass and hacking.”
  • While in the fairies’ world, Danny and his friends must stay on the path because “the white stones seemed to act like a force field.”
  • When bushes begin to talk to Danny and his friends, Wendell says, “Fairies can disguise themselves as all kinds of things. I bet those aren’t really bushes.”
  • In order to break a fox’s spell, Christiana puts in the tear of the fox. “The tear fell onto the spell. There was a shout that seemed to come from all directions of the woods, and the spell gave a great hiss and fizzle. The fox leaped to his feet, did a backflip, and tore off into the woods.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Revenge of the Dragon Lady

After killing a fierce dragon named Gorzil, Wiglaf returns to the academy and begins learning more about being a dragon slayer. But soon, a scout appears warning everyone about Seetha, Gorzil’s mother. Seetha wants to avenge her son’s death. Wiglaf isn’t ready to fight an angry dragon, so he searches for help and finds a librarian, a woman who thinks that “clothes make the man,” and finally a wizard who keeps making mistakes while casting spells.

In order to help Wiglaf, a wizard casts a courage spell that makes Wiglaf feel no fear. Wiglaf isn’t afraid to attack the “Mother of all Dragons” (or at least the mother of 3,684 of them). Will Wiglaf’s fearless attitude get him killed?

Revenge of the Dragon Lady brings more silly magic and dragon danger into Wiglaf’s life. The story adds in a fashion-forward woman that really believes the ridiculous new outfit is all Wiglaf needs to slay the dragon. The selfish headmaster also takes a larger role in the story, which is a fun addition to the story. Readers will want to read The New Kid at School first, because Revenge of the Dragon Lady has many of the same characters as the first book in the series.  

Unlike many children’s books, the Dragon Slayers’ Academy doesn’t rely on bullying to create conflict. Instead, the children encourage Wiglaf and try to help him stay alive. The fast-paced story uses humor and suspense to keep readers engaged. Wiglaf is a kind-hearted boy who doesn’t want to use violence—even on a fire-breathing dragon. Instead of having sword fights and death, each dragon dies in an unrealistic, but comical way.

The story uses simple vocabulary and short paragraphs to tell a fast-paced story. Readers may need help with some of the more complex sentences and the medieval language. For example, Wiglaf’s friends tell him to “smite” the dragon, and Wiglaf tells someone to “unhand me.” Full-page black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the story. The detailed illustrations bring the characters to life with exaggerated facial expressions. A map of the academy and a DSA yearbook appear at the end of the book. Each yearbook page has a picture of a character as well as important information about him/her.

Adventure-seeking readers will enjoy Revenge of the Dragon Lady and cheer for Wiglaf as he proves that you don’t need to be mighty in order to be a hero. Readers who want more medieval fun should read the Roland Wright Series by Tony Davis.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • During a food fight in the cafeteria, Wiglaf throws an eel, and “at that very moment, the flesh-and-blood headmaster walked through the dining hall door. . . The eel stuck to Mordred’s forehead. Green eel juice dripped into his angry violet eyes.”
  • Wiglaf and his classmates discuss killing a dragon named Seetha. His friends tell Wiglaf to “Take up your sword. Smite the dragon on the noggin.”
  • The dragon, Seetha, makes fun of Wiglaf, and then, “she made a hacking sound in the back of her throat. Up came a blob of fire. She spit it at the straw dragon. WHOOSH! It burst into flames.” The headmaster tells Seetha, “Go ahead and have fun with the boy. But, please. Try not to set the school on fire.”
  • Wiglaf charges the dragon and “Seetha’s eyes widened with surprise. Then she blew a puff of red-hot dragon breath right at Wiglaf. The blast of smelly heat almost knocked Wiglaf off his feet. Sweat popped out on his brow. But still he ran toward the dragon. With one claw, Seetha knocked the sword out of Wiglaf’s hand. With the other, she struck him. He went rolling head over heels.”
  • Seetha “dangled Wiglaf further over the moat.” Wiglaf dropped his dagger, which falls on Seetha’s toe. Then Seetha “tossed Wiglaf away. He sailed through the air. With a thump, he landed on the ground. He bounced twice. Then he lay still.”
  • Wiglaf hides from Seetha, and when she tries to go get him, “Seetha teetered on the roof above him. . . Her wings flapped clumsily. Her tail lashed the air. She swayed dangerously back and forth. She lost her balance. Down she plunged. SPLASH. Seetha hit the moat.” Later Wiglaf explains that “Seetha died from her secret weakness! It was a bath that killed the beast.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Blazing King Ken’s britches!” is used as an exclamation.

Supernatural

  • The headmaster hears a fluttering noise and thinks it is a bird. He yelped, “A bird of evil omen has come to devour us all!” He realizes that the bird is actually his scout.
  • Wiglaf’s pigs can talk. A wizard “put a spell on her, [so] Daisy could speak Pig Latin.”
  • In order to make a wizard appear, “all Wiglaf had to do was say Zelnoc’s name backwards three times.” Wiglaf said the spell and “suddenly, a tiny bit of smoke appeared. It grew into a smoky, blue pillar. Out of the smoke stepped Zelnoc.”
  • Zelnoc accidentally says a spell that brings the entire wizard convention to a henhouse. He says “Romziz! Romziz! Romziz!” And then “Smoke filled the henhouse. Red smoke. Yellow smoke. Bright purple smoke. The hens sprang from their nest. . . But Wiglaf stood where he was. He watched in amazement as the smoke swirled into great columns. Out of each column stepped a wizard wearing a gown the color of smoke. Some two dozen wizards appeared in all.”
  • A wizard cast a bravery spell on Wiglaf. He chanted, “Spineless, gutless, weak-kneed brat, Chicken-hearted scaredy-cat, cringing coward, yellow-belly, liver-livered, heart of jelly. Change this boy who’s standing here, into He-Who-Knows-No-Fear!” Wiglaf then dashes off to kill a dragon.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Watch that Witch

Princess Pulverizer is desperate to finish her Quest of Kindness so she can finally go to Knight School. The problem is, she’s only halfway through her required number of good deeds. So when a witch offers to make her a knight right away—as long as Princess Pulverizer works for her—it’s a no-brainer. What could go wrong?

Princess Pulverizer is in a hurry to reach her goal. When the evil witch, Elle, offers to make her a knight immediately, Princess Pulverizer is convinced that causing a little mischief isn’t such a big deal. As the princess causes problems for others, the good witch tries to undo Princess Pulverizer’s pranks. Throughout the tale, the princess learns that “being a noble knight is not something you can become overnight. It takes time. And training. . . My father was right. I have a lot to learn.”

Readers will enjoy the story’s characters, which include twin witches, a faithful friend, Dribble the Dragon, and an impatient princess. Readers will relate to the princess’s desire to quickly reach her goal.  Watch that Witch is perfect for readers who are ready for chapter books. The story contains easy vocabulary and short paragraphs. Princess Pulverizer has many funny puns, introduces some new vocabulary, and has a tongue twister. Black-and-white illustrations appear frequently and will help readers picture the events in the story. The illustrations show Princess Pulverizer’s facial expression and her vast emotions in a humorous way.

Watch that Witch has interesting characters, a relatable conflict, and plenty of humor to keep readers interested. Young readers will enjoy the interesting topic and parents will like the positive messages about friendship, working hard, and being nice. The story reinforces the idea that teamwork is important and that “when we work together, no one can stop us.” Watch that Witch will make a fun addition to any child’s reading list. Readers will be eager to pick up the next book in the series, The Dragon’s Tale. Readers interested in knights may also want to try the Roland Wright Series by Tony Davis.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A little boy has a gingerbread cookie, but then a witch shows up and brings the cookie to life. “The child looked surprised as his gingerbread cookie dropped to the ground and began to dance on its own.” The cookie bites the boy’s leg, then “the gingerbread boy ran off down the road.”
  • During a jousting match, “something slammed Princess Pulverizer right in the chest. She felt herself falling and then everything went black.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Lucas left Knight School because some of the boys made fun of him and called him “lily-livered.”
  • Twice, the evil witch calls the princess a “fool.”

Supernatural

  • The princess has a sword of truth that quivers when someone is not telling the truth.
  • The story has two witches, one that is good and one that is evil. One witch “snapped her fingers and pulled a gingerbread cookie seemingly out of thin air.” She gives the cookie to a little boy, then “the woman in the blue gown waved her hand again and magically vanished.”
  • The princess has a magic mace that heals people’s wounds, “but the king also said that if we try to use the mace’s power on someone who is deceitful or evil, its magic will disappear.” When the princess waves the mace over Dribble’s blister, the blister dissolves.
  • The evil witch gives the princess a pin that puts her under a spell. While she wears the pin, the princess must do what the evil witch tells her to do.
  • The princess wears a ruby ring that “gave whoever wore it the ability to move without making a sound.”
  • When the princess begins to talk to the good witch, the princess “felt a piece of cloth fly into her mouth, blocking her words. She tried to pull the gag from her mouth, but already a white rope had magically tied her hands behind her back. Another rope was slithering its way around her legs, binding them so she couldn’t walk. . .a locked cage appeared magically around Princess Pulverizer. She was trapped!”
  • When the princess tries to escape, “she felt her feet lift off the ground. . .The wicked witch was waving her hands in the air. She was the reason the princess was flying in midair.”
  • The princess tricks the evil witch into looking into a magical reflecting pool. “Without thinking, she looked down into the water. A moment later, her fingers curled like a tiger’s claws. Her feet hardened like lead. And her skin turned gray as slate.” The evil witch turns into stone.
  • The princess is given a hand mirror as a gift. The mirror’s “magic is powerful. You can see the future reflected in the glass.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The New Kid at School

Wiglaf, the smallest boy in the family, gets pushed around by his brothers. Then a traveling minstrel tells Wiglaf he was born to be a hero. Wiglaf doesn’t think he will ever do anything heroic. When he reads the Dragon Slayer’s Academy ad posted on the village message tree, Wiglaf and his pet pig head to the academy. Even though Wiglaf can’t stand seeing any creature suffer—not even a fly—he’s convinced he can learn to slay a dragon. His first day at Dragon Slayer’s Academy will be a day he never forgets.

Twelve older brothers love to boss Wiglaf around. Much like Cinderella, Wiglaf must wash the dishes and do a never-ending list of chores. Wiglaf befriends the minstrel, who then teaches him how to read. Despite his small size, Wiglaf is convinced that he can be a hero. The kind, likable Wiglaf isn’t ashamed to be small, poor, or different than others. Instead, he uses his knowledge to defeat the dragon without using his sword, Surekill.

The New Kid at School mixes a little bit of silly magic, a talking pig, and a kind classmate to create a delightful story that makes readers giggle. Wiglaf’s adventure is told with humor while also highlighting the importance of work. This is shown when Wiglaf did not have any money to pay the academy’s tuition, so he offers to wash dishes. Another character empties eel traps in order to stay at the school. The conclusion has several surprises that will have readers eager to pick up the next book in the series, Revenge of the Dragon Lady.

The story uses simple vocabulary and short paragraphs to tell a fast-paced story. Readers may need help with some of the more complex sentences and the medieval language. For example, the dragon slayers are hoping to take the dragon’s “hoards” and Wiglaf is told to go “thitherwald.” Full-page black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the story. The detailed illustrations bring the characters to life with exaggerated facial expressions. A map of the academy and a DSA yearbook appear at the end of the book. Each yearbook page has a picture of a character as well as important information about him/her. Adventure-seeking readers will enjoy The New Kid at School and cheer for Wiglaf as he proves that you don’t need to be mighty in order to be a hero.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A minstrel tells a story about Sir Gilford, who teased a dragon named Old Snart. “Well, Old Snart hated to be teased. He began whimpering and crying until he collapsed in a pool of tears. He hardly noticed when Sir Gilford sliced off his head.”
  • Wiglaf’s mother wants to hurry into town because she “doesn’t want to miss the hanging.”
  • Gorzil, a dragon, takes all of the town’s gold. Then, “he swears to burn Toenail to the ground unless a son and daughter of the village are outside his cave tomorrow. Tomorrow at dawn, in time for breakfast.” After a lottery, two children are sent to become Gorzil’s dinner.
  • Eric and Wiglaf go to Gorzil’s cave. Eric yells, “I am your worst nightmare!” Gorzil becomes angry and “sparks shot from his nose. They scorched the hem of Eric’s dress. Then Gorzil raised the tip of his tail over his head and whacked Eric’s sword out of his hand.”
  • After Wiglaf tells the dragon a series of really bad knock-knock jokes, “Gorzil’s chest heaved. His tail lashed one final time and was still. His tongue flopped out the side of his mouth and lay in a puddle of yellow drool. Then, with a thunderous poof, Gorzil’s body exploded into a cloud of dragon dust.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The headmaster calls a boy a “ninny.” Later, someone calls Wiglaf a “ninny.”
  • Wiglaf’s brother tells a minstrel to “be gone, varlet!”
  • “Blazing King Ken’s britches!” is used as an exclamation.

Supernatural

  • A wizard cast a spell saying, “Oink-a-la, doink-a-la, fee fi fig! This pig shall be a talking pig!” Then the pig speaks in Pig Latin.
  • A wizard gives Wiglaf an enchanted sword called Surekill. When Wiglaf cries for help, the “sword leaped out of Wiglaf’s hand. It glowed red hot as it soared up, up into the air. . . They waited for it to reappear. But the sword had vanished.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Scorch Dragons

After a battle between Ice Wolves and Scorch Dragons, Anders and his twin sister have finally been reunited. But some still doubt that the twins are truly siblings. While the dragons have embraced Rayna, many want the wolves Anders and Lisabeth to leave the mountain stronghold of Drekhelm, because dragons think all wolves are a threat.

For now, Lief, the leader of the dragons, has promised to keep the two wolves safe. But when the wolf pack begins to use the Snowstone, the temperature starts to drop all over Vallen. With the use of the Snowstone, the wolves can weaken the dragons before they attack. Every dragon is in danger. As the dragons debate on the best course of action, Anders and his friends decide they must act in the hopes of bringing peace.

Anders enlists the help of a few new flame-breathing friends to stop the wolves’ plan of attack. Together the group must go on a quest to find the pieces of the Sun Scepter, the only artifact that can counteract the Snowstone. In the search for the Sun Scepter, Anders and his friends will not only have to hunt for clues, but they must also keep the dragons in the dark. The only way to bring peace is to find the Sun Scepter, but keep it out of the dragons’ hands. Can Anders and his friends find the Sun Scepter and use it to stop the wolves? Or will they cause the next great battle?

The second book in the Elemental series still focuses on Anders but adds new, interesting characters. As Anders learns about the dragons’ world, he discovers that the stories of the dragons were not completely true. Instead, the wolves’ stories only focused on facts that portrayed the Ice Wolves in a positive light, and they left out important information that would have helped people understand why the dragons “attacked.” Throughout the story, Anders and his friends learn to put away past misconceptions and work together for the good of all—dragons and wolves.

Scorch Dragons introduces the dragon’s world and gives Anders a new perspective. However, much of the story focuses on Anders and Rayna proving that they are truly siblings and using this knowledge to find the pieces of the Sun Scepter, which has been hidden in four different places. The search lacks suspense due to overly long descriptions of scenery as well as the easy manner in which the pieces are found.

Readers who enjoyed Ice Wolves will already have a connection with the characters and will want to know the outcome. Because of the advanced vocabulary, long descriptions, and a large cast of characters, Scorch Dragons is best suited for strong readers. This character-driven story shows how unlikely friends can work together for the good of all. Although the story ends with an epic battle between the Ice Wolves and the Scorch Dragons, readers will have to work to make it through the slower middle part of the story. Still, fantasy fans will love flying into a book where dragons, wolves, and magic meld in a world of constant danger.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Anders, Rayna, and their friends take the Sun Scepter to Holbard. The dragons try to stop them and throw “pure white dragonfire” at the group. Ander uses the Sun Septer and “a wave of warmth washed over him like a real wave of water, sending all the dragons scrambling to stay steady.” The dragons follow the group into town when suddenly “ice spears were flying up from the walls, along with huge clouds of cold cast by the most powerful of the wolves, and the dragons were staggering, tossed about by the cold wind.”
  • When the wolves use the Snowstone, everything freezes. The cold “reached the harbor, and icy fingers snaked out into the water, freezing the surface solid and squeezing the hulls of the ships until they began to crack with bang Anders could hear even above the city.”
  • During a battle, the Sun Scepter gives of a wave of heat. “A huge crack was opening up right through the middle of Holbart, running straight through the courtyard and outbuildings of Ulfar Academy itself! Stonework crumbled, walls collapsed, and a jagged trench cut the ground in two.”
  • During the battle, Leif tried to protect the students but “a sudden volley of ice spears soared toward Ellukka and Rayna, it was Valerius who threw himself into their path to protect his daughter, roaring his defiance. Ellukka shrieked as a wave of gray cold started at her father’s foreleg, racing along his side. One wing paralyzed, he began to fall, fall, fall toward the ground.” Other dragons come to help Valerius.
  • During the final battle, both Anders and Rayna use icefire. “Flames billowed out, consuming the dragons’ fire and the wolves’ ice, swallowing them whole before they could touch the twins.” The epic battle is described over 20 pages. Most of the destruction happens to buildings, and injuries are not described.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Leif wants to see if Rayne and Anders are truly siblings. He brings a purse to Anders and tells him the purse “will bond to the next person who touches it. . . It will require just the smallest drop of blood. Artifacts linked to family often do, among others. The blood of the most powerful wolves and dragon can achieve a great deal.” After Anders puts blood on the clasp, the purse will only open to those who are related to him. As Rayna takes the purse, Leif tells her, “If it doesn’t recognize you, it will scream an alarm. If it opens, that’s all we need to know.”
  • One of the characters in Ice Wolves explains how Elementals change. “Essence is the magic that’s found all around us. In nature, in the earth itself. When we transform from human to wolf, we channel it instinctively so we can make the change…Elementals always have gifts linked to nature, because nature is where we find the essence that gives us our power.”
  • In the past, dragons and wolves crafted magical objects with runes. Many of the objects are magical and the “runes are what channeled the essence—the power that came from nature, from the earth itself—into artifacts.”
  • Anders discovers that he can create icefire—blue-and-silver fire. When he uses the fire, “the white fire and the ice spear both vanished into nothing as they connected with his blue-and-silver flames.”
  • Anders and Rayna’s mother was rumored to have a thunder lion as a father. Thunder lions “are elementals who control the wind and air.”
  • One of the wolves has a mirror that “allows two-way communication.”
  • Anders and Rayne are given a map that used to be their mother’s. When Rayna puts blood on the compass of the map, “the beautifully drawn border was writing, changing, rearranging itself.” The map makes letters, which give them a clue to find the Sun Scepter, which can change the weather.
  • The wolves use the Snowstone to make the weather colder, which weakens the dragons’ power.
  • When Anders, Rayna, and their friends get to Cloudhaven, they are able to enter the building by using pins with runes on them. When they enter, Anders tells Cloudhaven what they are looking for “and then, just as it had before, the glow out in the hallway faded. When it returned a moment later, the path of runes led down the stairs again. . . the new glowing path led an entirely new direction.” Cloudhaven lights a path showing Anders and Rayna where they need to go.
  • Anders and Rayna are given two pendants. When Anders placed a pendant onto Rayna’s dragon form, “the necklace simply melted into her skin, vanishing, perhaps to the same place her clothes and the contents of her pockets had gone when she transformed.”

Spark

In Algorria, storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, bringing prosperity and peace to Algorria. Twelve-year-old Mina has been carefully tending a storm beast egg, and is eager for the egg to hatch. Everyone is surprised when a lightning beast hatches from Mina’s egg. Mina’s family thinks that their quiet, shy daughter should not be paired up with a lightning beast, a creature of fire and chaos.

Unlike her family, Mina is sure that she, her storm beast, and Pixit are perfect for each other. Mina and Pixit are enrolled in lightning school and begin to learn the skills of lightning guardians. Even though Mina has always dreamed of completing daring acts, she struggles at school. She is unable to learn the basic skills and often feels as if she doesn’t fit in anywhere.

When Mina accidentally learns that Alorria’s perfect weather comes at a devastating cost, she discovers that powerful people are willing to do anything to hide the truth. Mina has never been able to speak out, but now without her help people will die. Mina and Pixit both dream of being like storybook heroes that change the world for the better. Is there any way that Mina can find her voice?

Readers will pick up Spark because of the beautiful cover of a storm beast, but they will keep turning the pages until the very end because of the beautiful relationship between Mina and Pixit. Anyone who has been afraid to speak up will relate to Mina, who is happy to let others take over the conversation. Yet within the quiet girl’s heart is the dream of making a positive impact in the world. Mina often struggles with feelings of insecurity, but with Pixit’s help Mina learns that being “different isn’t wrong.” In order to help others, Mina does not need to change herself. Instead, she only needs to use her own unique talents.

This engaging story uses a unique setting to bring modern-day problems to the forefront. As part of Mina’s studies, she is introduced to the idea of isolationism which is explained as follows: “Isolationism—defined as caring only about your own country—had the benefit of limiting the area that the early storm beast and guardians had to protect. Here’s the important bit to understand: all the world’s weather is connected, and more complex than you can comprehend.”

As Mina learns more about her country, she gets a lesson in false propaganda and how the political leaders are willing to suppress the truth because they fear change. However, the message is clear: “you can’t dismiss the facts just because you don’t like where they lead.” Even though Mina is quiet, she finds a way to become a leader. However, becoming a leader was not an easy choice for Mina. Her self-doubt and worry come through because Pixit can hear Mina’s thoughts. The relationship between Mina and her storm beast is so endearing that it will leave readers wishing they had a storm beast of their own.

Not only is Spark an exceptional story, but it also teaches readers that it is possible to change the world for the better. By the end of the story, Mina and Pixit feel like friends who have made a positive impact on you. Spark is an unforgettable story that will resonate with children and leave them wanting to be kinder, better people who do good in the world.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A fight broke out in the school’s dining hall. A student “launched herself across the tables, and dozens of her friends joined her. . . dozens of other students threw themselves into the battle. . . Mina, unable to run, unable to move, stared as students and beasts fought in front of her, over the tables, and up on the metal ladders, chains, and other obstacles.” Pixit joins the fight, and Mina “felt pain shoot through her arm as another beast bit into him.” Some students began throwing potatoes. A teacher breaks up the fight, which lasts for two pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the students tells Min, “Mina, tell him he’s an idiot. He doesn’t believe me when I say it.”

Supernatural

  • Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day. Wind beasts blow the clouds away, sun beasts produce balmy temperatures, rain beasts water the crops, and so on.
  • When a person is chosen to care for a storm beast’s egg, the person must spend time each day with skin-to-egg contact. When the egg hatches, the person and the storm beast are linked. Mina’s brother “Gaton had told her what it felt like to be linked mind-to-mind to a storm beast: he couldn’t hear all of Arde’s thoughts the way he heard his own, and Arde couldn’t always hear his, but he could always feel Arde’s emotions like a constant hum in the back of his mind. . . And when he wanted to talk to Arde, all he had to do was concentrate on both the words and his beast. It was like shouting. But quietly.”
  • Mina and Pixit can feel each other’s emotions. For example, when Mina and Pixit were about to fly into a storm, Mina “felt Pixit’s nervousness, like bubbles in her veins.”
  • Lightning beasts can store lightning, and the guardians can then discharge the lightning’s energy. During a storm, Mina “rose in her seat, and she reached her arms up, hands high over her head, fingers spread. . . Roaring, Pixit flew into the lightning. Mina felt it hit her fingers and rattle down her arms. She brought her hands together, holding the lightning steady above her. . . Mina opened her hands and released the electricity. Some of it spread through the air and slammed down, harmlessly, on the blackened hills below. But most of the energy was absorbed into Pixit, causing him to glow an even more brilliant yellow.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Knight Who Took All Day

The Knight wants to impress the golden-haired princess. He wants to show the princess his skill with a shield and a sword. The Knight searches for a dragon, but doesn’t find one. When a dragon suddenly appears in the village breathing fire, the knight is worried more about his appearance than slaying the dragon. The Knight sends his squire up and down the stairs, getting his fashionable armor. The princess takes matters into her own hands, but will she be able to conquer the dragon?

The illustrations show the dragon in and around the village in soft water-colored illustrations, which do not portray the dragon’s destruction in a scary manner. The princess is in many of the illustrations, but because the illustrations are busy, readers may miss the princess’s reaction to the knight, which is important to the knight. Parents may want to make a game out of finding the princess and talking about her facial expressions. Although the illustrations are interesting and engaging, the character’s lack diversity and the two main characters—the squire and the princess—are blonde.

The Knight Who Took All Day is a cautionary tale that highlights the danger of pride and showing off. The Knight is more concerned with having the perfect outfit than saving the town from destruction. The story may lead to a great discussion on gender roles and stereotypes. In the end, the princess finds a way to tame the dragon. The blond-haired beauty marries the squire and lives happily ever after. In the end, the princess shows her bravery and doesn’t have to rely on someone else to save her.

The story’s text has repetition and different types of font to highlight important words and add interest to the page. Even though The Knight Who Took All Day is a picture book, the story will need to be read aloud, because the text is too difficult for a child to read independently. The Knight Who Took All Day takes a humorous, unique look at the traditional fairy tale that is best suited for those who are interested in knights, dragons, and princesses.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A dragon “rampaged across farms, scattering cows and sheep.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The knight calls his squire a fool.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

A Friend for Dragon

At the beginning of the story, Dragon is looking for a friend. When an apple falls from a tree, landing on the lonely dragon, a snake decides to play a trick on Dragon. The snake makes Dragon believe that the apple can talk, but when Dragon takes the apple home, the apple stops talking. The apple’s silence worries dragon who takes him to the doctor. The doctor eats the apple, leaving behind a core that soon rots. Dragon must bury his friend, who he misses deeply. But in the spring, dragon goes for a walk and finds a new apple to be friends with.

Written using simple sentences, with easy vocabulary, A Friend for Dragon is perfect for those transitioning to chapter books. Seven or fewer sentences appear on every page, and every page has colorful pictures that will help readers visualize the plot and bring Dragon’s friendship with the apple into sharp focus. Dragon tells his friend stories, jokes, and even makes him a midnight snack. Dragon also talks about the qualities that make a good friend.

Readers may find A Friend for Dragon entertaining or heartbreaking depending on their unique personalities and experiences. Some readers may think that the snake’s joke is funny because obviously, an apple would not make a good friend. But other readers may walk away saddened by the snake’s joke, especially because Dragon is so lonely. The snake’s joke is never revealed and in the end, Dragon finds a new apple to take his friend’s place. Dragon deeply mourns the loss of the apple and even buries him. An illustration shows Dragon grieving over the apple’s tombstone.

While Dragon is a lovable character, some may find A Friend for Dragon upsetting. Dragon demonstrates the qualities of a true friend, as well as highlights the fact that it is okay to mourn the loss of a friend. The story definitely brings up topics that parents should discuss with their children. A Friend for Dragon has an easy-to-understand plot that many readers will find enjoyable, while others may become saddened by Dragon’s experiences.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

When Dragons are Dreaming

The little dragon can’t sleep, and he wants to play with the fairies he can see flying through the sky. But the fairies don’t want to play with a dragon. When the little dragon finds a fairy caught in a spider’s web, can he show her that dragons aren’t that scary after all?

Written in beautiful rhymes, When Dragons are Dreaming has beautiful full-colored pictures that will delight little readers. The story has a simple plot that focuses on the little dragon’s desire to have a friend. The little dragon and the fairy fly through the night, showing readers that you don’t have to be the same in order to be friends.

Even though When Dragons are Dreaming is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page contains 1-2 rhyming sentences, which make this a perfect bedtime story. Younger readers will want to snuggle up and have their parents re-read When Dragons are Dreaming over and over again because of the adorably cute illustrations that will fill their dreams with dragons and fairies.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Rise of the Dragons

Joss and Allie have always feared the Raptors and the wave of death caused by the vicious beast. When Joss finds a dragon egg, he never imagined the love he could feel for the Silver dragon or the danger the dragon would bring into his life.

The Lennix’s are a cruel and power-hungry family who wish to rule over all dragons and humans. They have trained their Raptors to follow commands and prey on unsuspecting humans. But some of the raptors are questioning the Lennix’s rule. They are convinced that possessing the Silver dragon is the key to their continuing rule.

Sirin lives in the Lost Lands, where dragons no longer live. Most people have forgotten the dragons and no longer believe they existed at all, but Sirin hopes that she will one day meet a dragon. While Sirin dreams of dragons, her real life is full of grief. When her mom is hospitalized, Sirin is forced to live with several different families. Sirin wonders if her life will be filled with grief forever.

Rise of the Dragons weaves together three stories—Joss and Allie, the Lennix family, and Sirin—and eventually ties the stories together. Most of the story focuses on Joss and Allie, the indentured servants who find the Silver’s egg. When the Lennix family tricks Joss and Allie into going to their compound, life only gets worse for the siblings. Readers will be engrossed in the unique, but cruel, dragon world.

Even though the reader knows that Sirin’s story will eventually connect to Joss and Allie’s story, readers may have a hard time connecting with Sirin’s story, which is realistic fiction. The chapters about Sirin pop in at unexpected places and slow down the plot. The conclusion brings Sirin and a dragon together in a fun, unexpected way and clearly sets up a sequel.

The story contains detailed, concise descriptions, as well as short chapters that often focus on one character. However, some readers may struggle with the difficult vocabulary, such as “ensconced,” “undulating,” “lugubriously,” “cantilevered,” and “soporific.” Rise of the Dragons may best suit middle school readers because younger readers may be frightened by the raptors’ cruelty; several of the characters’ parents are killed by raptors, and the characters are then enslaved by the Lennix family.

Sage creates an interesting dragon world, where death and violence are everyday occurrences. Although the characters are not well developed, the story has enough action and suspense to keep the pages turning. Rise of the Dragons has plot twists, truly evil villains, and a protagonist with whom readers will sympathize.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Joss thinks about his parents, who died when raptors “dived onto his mother and father, and the shine of their sharpened talons, curved and lethal, as they emerged from their sheaths for the kill.” Later Joss again thinks about his parents and how “they had been attempting to escape a Lennix roundup, and it hadn’t worked. He remembered Raptors diving down, taking his parents hundreds of feet up into the sky, and then dropping them into the sea.”
  • When Joss is riding his dragon, Lysander, they are chased by a group of dragons. As Joss and Lysander try to flee, “Joss felt a burst of heat as a spume of dragonfire hit Lysander’s tail. The flames fell away from Lysander’s silver scales like water from oiled feathers, but the shock of it caused him to shoot rapidly forward. . .” Joss and Lysander fly through a portal and are safe.
  • Lysander frightens a flock of sheep, and they run into an old quarry. Joss tells his sister about how he “climbed down into the quarry and they were piled up. Dead on the quarry floor. Well, they weren’t all dead. Some were injured and bleating. So . . . so I had to hit them on the head. To put them out of their pain. It was. . . Oh, it was horrible.”
  • When Joss trips, D’Mara “Grabbed Joss’s arm and pulled him roughly to his feet, gripping him so hard he could feel her nails digging into skin.” When Joss and Allie try to run, D’Mara “threw herself at Joss and caught his neck in an armlock. Allie hurled herself at the traveler, but a well-aimed kick sent her sprawling to the ground. . . The traveler jerked her arm hard against Joss’s throat, making him gasp for breath.” Armed guards appear and they shoved the sack over Lysander’s head. “At once he lay down upon the ground in defeat. . .They pulled her (Allie) arms behind her back and roughly tied her hands, then threw a net over her and wrapped her up so tightly that she could hardly breathe. Allie began to gasp in panic. . . As Allie took a shuddering gulp of air, Tamara kicked the back of her knees and Allie fell to the ground.” Joss is also tied up, and the two were taken to Fortress Lennix to be prisoners.
  • When Sirin and Ellie are walking home from school, some girls bully them, telling them they must pay a toll to pass. One girl grabs Sirin by the collar. Later, the same girls corner Sirin and her foster mother, Mandy. Mandy tries to help, but “Mandy looked down and saw the point of a jagged knife pressing into her all too thin cardigan. . . but the pressure of the knife point reminded her to keep quiet.” One of the girls “pulled out a knife, drawing the tip of the blade across Sirin’s stomach.”
  • The Lennix twins take Allie to a notoriously violent raptor and have her thrown into his room. They giggle as they hear the dragon roar and they assume Allie is being eaten. However, the dragon does not injure Allie.
  • When the Lennix’s catch a Green dragon, the other dragons punish the Green. “Bellacurx sent a short burst of flame flickering across the ground, so that they curled around the delicate feet of the Green and sent her hopping from one foot to another—much to the amusement of the other Raptors. . . In a sudden movement, the red dragon brought her wings down in such a way that their sharpened barbs gouged deep grooves through the scales of the Green and tore into her wings.” The Green is then imprisoned.
  • The Lennix’s raptors go on a raid, attacking the Greens and “demolished their nest.” D’Mara’s husband tells the raptors, “The free Greens are finished. But the Reds, Yellows, and Blues remain . . . Raptors, tonight we shall go in for the kill. We go to the Islands of the Blues where they hold their eggs deep in caves beneath the ocean. From them we shall take a tribute: a living infant that we shall tear to shreds before their eyes, and then we shall leave them in grief. We shall return again and again and again until the Blues show us their hiding places of their clutches and beg us to take them.”
  • The epic battle between the Lennix’s raptors and other dragons takes place over three chapters. During the fight, “Wave after wave of firestiks rained down from Flight Vengeance. Bellacrux and Lysander ducked and dived. . . And then a firestik found its mark—on Lysander’s left wing tip. Lysander pitched to one side and sent the weapon bouncing off his armored silver scales. The sudden lurch sent Joss sliding out from the rider’s dip.” Joss is able to rebalance, and the fight continues. One aggressive raptor named Valkea goes after Bellacrux. “Valkea let loose a long, focused spume of fire. It caught the tip of Bellacrux’s tail but did little damage, for the tail-thrashing doused the flames and the burn alerted Bellacrux to her pursuer . . . Bellacrux sent a long, thin steam of brilliant orange flame straight into Valkea’s face. The Red wheeled backward and the flames shot down the soft and vulnerable front of her neck. . . In agony from the burn, she thrashed her neck to and fro, trying to cool the burn. . .” During the battle, one dragon is injured when someone throws a firestik, and the raptor’s “tail exploded into flames,” causing the raptor to fall to his death.
  • When a burning raptor falls to his death, he hits a dragon’s wing. When the raptor’s tail hits the dragon, “there was a snap like a pistol shot, and suddenly her wing was hanging down, useless. Herlenna screamed. . . She keeled over to one side, and with a crashing and cracking of branches, she disappeared through the canopy of trees like a drowning swimmer beneath the waves. Lysander and Joss heard a deep thud, and then all was silent.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • D’Mara calls her husband a “spineless little liar” and “slick of dragon slime.”
  • D’Mara calls a dragon an “idiot.” Later she calls Joss an “idiot.” Several other characters also call someone an “idiot.”
  • Kaan calls his brother a “dumbo” and then tells him, “Oh, go boil your stupid fat head.”
  • D’Mara tells her husband, “And I always thought that Lock of yours was a bit of a bonehead.”
  • A girl tells Sirin’s foster mom, “Bleedin’ Nora, you’re effing crazy, you are.”

Supernatural

  • Humans can lock with dragons. “Some people were lucky enough to become so close to a dragon that they stayed together for life. They even understood each other’s thoughts.” Once a dragon and human have locked, they can communicate through thought.
  • A silver dragon is able to travel through a portal to the Lost Lands. “All Silvers can travel through the invisible portals that link our two worlds. And if a Silver touches its tail to another dragon, they can both go through. Indeed, you can have a whole chain of dragons going through.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Basque Dragon

As members of the Unicorn Rescue Society, Elliot and Uchenna know that mythical creatures exist. But Elliot’s unprepared for the strange events he encounters. As he leaves for school, Elliot finds a mysterious package on his front step. He opens the package and finds a book called The Country of Basque. When Elliot gets to school, he meets up with Uchenna. Professor Fauna approaches them—he needs their help.

Soon, the two friends are whisked away in Professor Fauna’s plane and heading across the ocean to the mountains of the Basque Country. The members of the Unicorn Rescue Society must find and save a missing dragon. Can the group track down the kidnapped dragon? And if they find the dragon, how will they stay alive long enough to save it?

An action-packed fantasy, The Basque Dragon is full of adventure, mystery, and humor. Elliot and Uchenna show how two people who are completely different can still be friends. Elliot would rather read about mythical animals than meet them. His fearful nature is a fun contrast to Uchenna’s adventurous, courageous spirit. Uchenna is not portrayed as a stereotypical girl; she is capable, strong, and smart.

The Basque Dragon gives some history of the Basque people and uses some Basque words. The story explains how to pronounce the Basque language by giving pronunciation guides. For example, the Basque people are called, the Euskaldunak—AY-oo-SKAL-doo-nak.

In order to enjoy the story, readers will have to suspend their disbelief. There are several events that are unrealistic. For example, the professor parks his beat-up single-prop plane in the school parking lot. The group flies across the Atlantic in the beat-up plane, which the professor does not know how to land. Despite the professor’s lack of skills, the group still makes it safely to the desired location. Another unrealistic event is that even though the group leaves New Jersey after school, Elliot and Uchenna are still able to make it home in time for dinner.

One disturbing aspect of the story is that Elliot and Uchenna go to Europe with Professor Fauna, even though they don’t trust him. To make matters worse, they lie to their parents and say they were at school participating in a club—the Worm Nutrition Club.

The second installment of The Unicorn Rescue Society can be read as a stand-alone book; however, readers will enjoy the book more if they read The Creature of the Pines first. The Basque Dragon will keep younger readers entertained with its rapid pace, humorous tone, and diverse characters. Black-and-white illustrations are scattered throughout the book; the illustrations add humor as well as help readers visualize the characters. Most of the text is easy to read because it uses short paragraphs, simple vocabulary, and dialogue. However, adding the Basque language makes reading parts of the story laborious. Even though the evil villain is predictable and some of the events are unrealistic, The Basque Dragon will entertain readers while exploring the difference between independence and isolation.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When the group lands in Basque, someone shoots at them. “Pop! Pop! Pop. . . They threw themselves to the ground.” The shooting stops when the professor stands up and says, “You have succeeded, whoever you are! We are afraid!”
  • The kids are told an old story. A dragon killed a knight and captured a noblewoman. When the Knight’s squire tells the swordsmith that the blade he made broke, the swordsmith goes to free the woman. When the swordsmith finds the dragon, “A roar of flame enveloped Teodosio. He fell to the ground, fire covering his body. . .” The swordsmith and the noblewoman are able to escape.
  • During World War II, Nazis dropped bombs on the dragon. “. . . Another wave of bombs fell. The ground trembled. The great herensuge fell to the ground.” A man led the dragon to a safe cave.
  • In a fit of anger, Professor Fauna smashes the plastic membership cards for The Unicorn Rescue Society. Professor Fauna “brought the rock down again and again, breaking the plastic cards to pieces, not seeming to notice that he was also smashing the buttons and switches. Dials started going crazy, whirring and spinning. . . A groaning came from the walls of the cavern and then the sound of an explosion. . .” The cave begins to crash around the group, but no one is injured.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the characters says “darn it.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • In the Basque Country, there are stories of a “dragon with seven heads: Sugaar, the god of the storms.”
  • A dragon’s saliva is “marvelously powerful” and will heal wounds.

 

 

 

 

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