Here Be Dragons

Dragons are among the coolest probably-fictional creatures ever created. The fire-breathing, the flying, the caves, the tumultuous relationships with humans, the treasure; it is all together captivating.

For a time, dragons were the gold standard in fantasy fiction. The folk-lore surrounding dragons is arguably greater than any other probably-fictional character. J.R.R. Tolkien, the “father of modern fantasy” once said that he “desired dragons with a profound desire.” It showed in his writing. His writing was and is positively infectious. It would be impossible to count the books written with dragons before or since.

While some have said that the “overabundance” (as if there could be) of dragons in the genre has turned them into a cliché, I say if there is a shred of truth to this accusation it is only that humans have become cliché in their portrayal of these majestic creatures. For on their own, dragons and their stories are limitless in their diversity, versatility, and creativity. From Puff the Magic Dragon, to Smaug; Elliot to Drogon; Toothless to Temeraire; Falkor to St. George’s dragon; the range of characters represented is anything but predictable and tired.

If you have been wondering how to introduce your children or students to the wide-eyed thrill of dragon-lore, then you have come to the right place. There are books for every age.

Board Books:

That’s Not My Dragon (Fiona Watt) – This book is the perfect baby shower or bringing-baby-home gift. It is guaranteed to please children and parents alike.

Picture Books:

The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch) – The classic tale told in this brilliant book was genre shifting upon its release. It was among the first stories told, and arguably the most famous, about a princess not only saving herself but rescuing a wayward prince in the process. It belongs in every classroom and in every home.

The Egg (M.P. Robertson) – This is the first book in an excellent series of picture books about a boy named George and a dragon he raises. The other books that follow are: The Secret Dragon Rescue and The Dragon Snatcher. I highly recommend these books.

Dragons Loves Tacos (Adam Rubin) – Dragons Loves Tacos has been a hit with children and adults for the past five years. It is hilarious, creative, and combines two of the best things our world has to offer…dragons and tacos!

When a Dragon Moves In (Jodie Moore) – My younger two children love this book. I cannot tell you how many times we have checked it out. They are freshly excited each time. It is a funny story of imagination and the typical familial response to such imagination.

Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter Yarrow) – We all know the song by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now your children can look at fantastic illustrations while you sing. I dare you to try to read the book rather than sing it. I am convinced it is impossible.

The Knight and The Dragon (Tomie dePaola) – This is an excellent book for those children who are not yet reading. The story is cute and clever, but it is the illustrations that make the book. Tomie dePaola does not disappoint.

Early Chapter Books:

My Father’s Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett) – The Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon can now be read altogether in the same book. I recently read this to my younger kids, who loved the story and would beg me to read more. When I was reading to them, I would look up to find the older two suddenly close by and paying full attention. This is an American classic for a reason.

The Snow Dragon (Marti Dumas) – This is a fantastic story that combines the reality of moving and finding a new home with the magical, in the form of a dragon. As you may already know, I am a very big fan of Marti Dumas’ writing and this is yet another example of why.

Middle Grades:

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer (Kate Kilmo) – This is the first book in a six book series called the Dragon Keepers. It is a great book for your second or third grade reader. The books are suspenseful and entertaining, but not scary or dark. These would also make very good read alouds for kids of different age ranges.

How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell) – The How to Train Your Dragon twelve book series has inspired multiple movies and TV spinoffs and for good reason. These books are so fun. They combine adventure, hijinks, dragons, humor, friendship, and life lessons.

A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Keeping of Humans (Laurence Yep) – Who knew dragons were so funny?! This perspective changing book gives literal voice to a frustrated dragon trying to figure out how to care for its pet human. My daughter laughed out loud through most of this book.

The Last Dragon Chronicles (Chris D’Lacey) – This wildly popular series starts off a bit slow on the dragon front. The first book, The Fire Within, spends a lot of time on a squirrel. Be patient, dragons are coming. This is a good series for your young advanced reader.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede) – A princess voluntarily choosing to go live with dragons, while turning away every prince who attempts to “rescue” her, what could be better? This series is an absolute must read.

Dragon Slippers (Jessica Day George) – This three book series follows Creel, a misunderstood, underappreciated teenage girl, who finds her confidence in the company of some misunderstood dragons. This unlikely heroine makes for a surprisingly relatable fantasy. There are moments of mild, innocent flirting throughout the story. While it is innocuous enough, it is probably better suited for older elementary school age kids. I would not recommend this series for kids “reading up.”

The Neverending Story (Michael Ende) – I will be honest, it was not until embarrassingly late in life that I knew there was a book behind the movie. The movie is perfection and may be the only example of a movie that outshines the book. But the book deserves its due as well. Ende introduced many of us of a certain generation (ahem) to our favorite childhood dragon, Falkor. And for that gift, we owe him a great deal of gratitude. Read the book and then, by all means and with no delay…watch the movie!

Wings of Fire series (Tui T. Sutherland) – These books are fascinating. They are narrated by dragons and are almost exclusively about dragons. All the elements of world building and fantasy fiction are present, just with dragons as the main (and, for the most part, only) characters. My guess is your kids will fly (pun intended) through them.

Young Adult:

The Inheritance Cycle series (Christopher Paolini) – This series has won the hearts of many readers. If you are looking for dragons, adventure, and fantasy, you will find those here. There is a major romance that runs through the series, just by way of forewarning.

The Hero and The Crown (Robin McKinley) – I actually enjoyed this Newberry Medal winning story a great deal. I have a great appreciation for a hard-done-by female protagonist who can kick some dragon tail. However, the innuendo is strong throughout the book, to the point where I am not sure what age to recommend this for. It is not so obvious that it should only be for high school, but it is prevalent enough that it may not be great for some junior highers. I suggest parents and teachers read this one first. You will enjoy the read and then you can determine your comfort level for your children.

Now, go slay your dragons, or befriend them…whichever suits your fancy.

 

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