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The Secret Lives of Dragons

The Secret Lives of Dragons

The Secret Lives of Dragons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Lives of Dragons

Prof Zoya Agnis

Alexander Utkin

Flying Eye, 2023

64pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

99781838741174

“Deep in the cold mountains of a distant land, there was once a magnificent kingdom of dragons. The songs of dragon families echoed across its peaks, and priceless treasures were hoarded in its caves. But what happened to this kingdom?” 

From stories like The Paper Bag Princess to the drama of Smaug’s arrival in the opening scenes of The Hobbit, both before and beyond, dragons have been a common entry to the world of fantasy for our young readers, sparking the imagination to go on wondrous adventures. For some, just being engrossed in the particular story is enough, but for others, there is a desire to know more and for them, this book is the answer.

It contains everything a curious mind wants to know to become an expert Drackenosopher just like the esteemed author, Zoya Agnis.  Through clever illustrations and readily accessible text, they can learn to identify the different dragon families, name the most fearsome dragon slayers, the bravest of Drackenosophy scholars and everything else there is to know about the beautiful dragons that we share our planet with.

About 20 years ago, there was another series of books like this (this series also includes The Secret Lives of Mermaids  and The Secret Lives of Unicorns) and it became the perfect vehicle for transitioning young readers into the world of non fiction as we took a topic they were fascinated by and started exploring information books.  In fact they came up with the slogan, Fiction = Imagination; Non Fiction = Information, something I have used in many instances since then. This would serve the same purpose. 

Whenever I make a storybook cushion or a journal or author kit featuring a dragon, I know I will only have it for a short time, such is the popularity of these fantastic beasts. Adults and children snap them up immediately, such is the fascination with and popularity of this creature.  So this is the perfect book to be the centrepiece of a display and promotion featuring fantasy promising to take readers on magical adventures as well as for The Year of the Dragon. A must-have if you have fantasy lovers amongst your readers. 

Three Tasks for a Dragon

Three Tasks for a Dragon

Three Tasks for a Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Tasks for a Dragon

Eoin Colfer

P. J. Lynch

Walker Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781529505825

After his father’s ‘accidental’ death at sea, his stepmother Queen Nimh and stepbrother Prince Delbayne invoke ancient Lagin law that only those who can summon the mysterious wolfhounds can become king, and Prince Lir is to be banished from his beloved homeland forever. The prince is a scholar not a warrior and acquiesces to his fate, but in an apparent act of generosity, Prince Delbayne pleads his stepbrother’s case and it is agreed that if Prince Lir can complete an ancient quest he will be able to return. 

Thus Prince Lir finds himself on a mission to rescue a young maiden being held captive by the dragon Lasvarg on his island, not realising that it is all part of a devious, malicious plan and dark magic concocted by his not-so-nice brother to ensure that Lir never returns to assume his place on the throne… But then, Delbayne does not realise that brains can overcome brawn… 

Created by two who have each been the Irish children’s laureate, this is a story reminiscent of the quests of old, drawing the reader into the fantasy of kings and queens and dragons and maidens needing to be rescued  with its twists and turns in the plot while its superb illustrations bring times gone by to life.  You can almost envisage this as a Lord of the Rings-esque movie, and while it has the traditional good versus evil as its underlying theme, because Prince Lir keeps his father’s words “The trick to it… is to work with what is around you,” it has a refreshing new perspective because rather than trying to trick the dragon and kill it to save Cethlenn, Lir uses his brains to cure the dragon’s ailments caused by the mould in his damp cave, mend his broken wing, and restore his fire-breathing powers,

, forming a partnership that eventually outwits and outlasts Nimh, Delbayne and even Lagin itself..

This is an illustrated novella that would make an ideal introduction to this genre as a read-aloud merging the traditional elements and feel of the classic quest with more modern themes.  

 

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Family Dragon: A Lunar New Year Story

Rebecca Lim

Cai Tse

Albert Street Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761180637

Starting on  February 10, 2024 will be the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, and the family, like so many around the world, are making all the traditional preparations ready for this special celebration.  The house is clean so all the bad luck is outside with the rubbish, special foods have been cooked, and so much else has been done as the anticipation of the dragon’s arrival reaches fever point. 

The advent of the Lunar New Year is celebrated not just in Asia but around the globe as people from many nationalities honour the traditions and customs of their heritage and this new picture book is the perfect introduction to this time as its sense of expectation and energy builds through both words and pictures. As both a classroom teacher and teacher librarian, this was always one of the richest festivals to draw on, not just because of all the teaching and display opportunities that it offered but also because it touched so many children and their families. Then, as well as exploring all the possibilities that that topic offers, it can be extended into a broader investigation of how and when New Year is celebrated by the school’s families.

Many of our students will be starting the new school year with the excitement of such an important occasion looming, and this is a great way to share that joy as well as acknowledging their culture. 

 

A Chinese New Year display

A Chinese New Year display

 

Alex Neptune (series)

Alex Neptune (series)

Alex Neptune (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Neptune (series)

Dragon Thief

9781474999236

Pirate Hunter

 9781474999274

Monster Avenger

 9781474999298

David Owen

HarperCollins, 2022-2023

250+pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

Alex Neptune lives in Haven Bay, a town whose history and currency is intertwined with the sea, and particularly the legends of the Water-Dragon and the pirate, Captain Brineblood, But Alex hates the sea because he is convinced it wants him dead and besides, strange things have happened to it since a mysterious factory was built and it is now so polluted that visitors no longer come to the town, let alone support the family gift store Neptune’s Bounty.  And what’s happening with the long-closed aquarium at the top of the hill which mysteriously glows green at night time?

This is new series for independent readers (best read in order for story continuity) that contains all the elements of relatable quirky characters, sea creatures that can talk and adventure that has  been described as  perfect “for fans of Percy Jackson and Dragon Realm”. With his tech-genius best friend Zoey, legend-lover Anil, and a sharp-shooting octopus, Alex discovers that he actually has power over his nemesis , the ocean, and embarks on a series of escapades that feature the town’s two legends, as he tries to save it from whatever is bringing it doom.

Full of action and embedded humour to lighten the mood, this is an entertaining read that has a powerful underlying message of how the ocean is being used by the unscrupulous for their own greed without regard for the consequences. From hating and fearing the ocean, Alex comes to appreciate and value it.  An eye-opener… 

Don’t Disturb the Dragon

Don't Disturb the Dragon

Don’t Disturb the Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Disturb the Dragon

Rhiannon Findlay

Siân Roberts

Puffin, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780241562314

On Wingbeat Island, the princess’s little brother has learned to crawl and now she can’t find him.  So she sets on a quest to discover where he has got to but danger lurks on the journey…

Somewhere near, a huge beast lies,
with giant claws and great big eyes . . .
DO NOT DISTURB THE DRAGON!

From the author of the enchanting Ten Minutes to Bed series, this is a new adventure that takes little ones on a trek around the island, following the map and encountering things that may be the dragon – or not. It’s an opportunity to talk about what they already know about dragons so they can examine the pictures to see if one might be nearby as well as learning that sometimes things might not be as they seem at first glance… The princess takes her anti-dragon kit with her so using their knowledge of dragons they might speculate on what they would add to it to be safe and sure. 

The rhyming language and the repetitive text invite them to join in both the fun and the storytelling, as they help the princess on her mission through the forest replete with all the elements that spark the imagination like castles, stepping stones and toadstools, while the island itself has gloomy caves,  rapid rivers, enchanted fortresses and smouldering volcanoes, each offering an opportunity to suggest a new adventure in the future – as does the ending!   

Like Ten Minutes to Bed, this is a vibrant, engaging story that ticks all the boxes for engaging our youngest readers with the fun and joy of stories and because it is in print, they can return to it again and again. 

One Hungry Dragon

One Hungry Dragon

One Hungry Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Hungry Dragon

Alastair Chisholm

Alex Willmore

Hachette, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781444966602

Deep in a dark and gloomy forest, a creature stomps through the trees.

“I am Bernardo, “he roars, ” and I am ONE HUNGRY DRAGON!”

So look out anything that crosses his path including two silly sheep, three hearty heroes, four proper princesses, and a host of other characters straight out of the fairytales of the young readers this is designed for.  But is it the end of the world for all those he swallows or is there a twist in the tale?  Maybe even more than one twist?

Despite Bernardo’s antics, this is a laugh-out-loud book rather than a scary one as both the illustrations and the climax will just delight little ones as they join in the fun, roaring with Bernardo, counting forward and back and learning about the delights of the picture book format.  

If the popularity of any of my storybook cushions featuring dragons is anything to go by, the attraction of dragons in stories remains unabated and this is the perfect addition to the collection. 

How to Hatch a Dragon

How to Hatch a Dragon

How to Hatch a Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Hatch a Dragon

Nick Bland

HarperCollins, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781460764053

Bunny has bought his best friend Bird a present.  Carefully, he takes it out of the box and places it on a large rock telling Bird it is a dragon egg, and he knows that because he bought it from the dragon-egg shop.  

Bird has a few questions about his gift so together they sit in front of the rock and work their way through the instructions.  Meanwhile, behind them…

This is the first in a new series for our youngest readers that not only celebrates friendship and fun but is also going to teach them so much about stories, reading and how to use the words and the pictures together because in this story, all the action is happening in the illustrations!  As Bunny is sharing what he is learning from the instruction sheet, magical things are happening in the background that they are oblivious to, but which the astute reader will be marvelling at.  It’s a bit like the old=time pantomime where the lead characters are unaware of other goings-on and the audience has to shout out warnings! Don’t be surprised if that is what your young reader does!

As well as engaging the readers in such a clever way, this has the potential to really open a child’s reading journey because Bland is also the author of the series that began with The Very Cranky Bear which will be familiar to so many so this offers an opportunity to discuss authors and how we often choose new reads because we have enjoyed the author’s work before.  Conversely, if the little one likes How to Hatch a Dragon it offers the opportunity to search out other titles by the same author.

It also introduces the concept of a series to little ones so they can be encouraged to think about what they learn about Bunny and Bird from this story so when the next one is released, they can be prompted to recall that and focus their thoughts and energy into enjoying the next episode.  

Bland says he always wanted to be a cartoonist and a writer, but it wasn’t until he was in his 20s and got a job at a bookshop and then read “every picture book that hit the shelves” that he finally discovered his own style and how to put being both storyteller and illustrator together.  Our youngest readers are so glad that he did.

 

Our Dragon

Our Dragon

Our Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Dragon

Mem Fox

Linda Davick

Puffin, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761049828

Having a young toddler in the house can sometimes seem like raising a dragon, especially as they start to push boundaries to exert and test  their independence but don’t have the words to articulate their frustration when things go wrong and so there is an explosion.  Particularly if the child is tired or hungry,

In this new book from family favourite Mem Fox, the little one is portrayed as a dragon breathing fire rather than the usual manifestation of a tantrum, giving it a light-hearted touch as the parents remain patient and try to guide it to making better choices. Written in rhyme, Fox shows that the outbursts are unintentional – “And he also tries hard / to behave as required, / but flames often spout / when he’s hungry or tired.” and the parents’ calm responses are teaching the child how to respond to any situation as much as the one at hand.  IMO, if this is an older sibling sharing this story, it also helps them understand that the younger one is still learning so whereas they might get into trouble for doing something similar, that’s because they’ve been through the learning stage and should know better by now.  But what if the little one really were a dragon???? 

Put Mem Fox’s name on a book for Australian children and you know you are going to get a story that is something special – and this lives up to expectations.  

The Fix-it Princess

The Fix-it Princess

The Fix-it Princess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fix-it Princess

Janeen Brian

Cherie Dignam

Walker Books, 2023

160pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760654825

Princess Shona likes to solve problems, the bigger the better and particularly if they involve practical solutions like rebuilding the chook house.  She is a  is a princess with a Can-Do attitude bur right now she is facing the biggest problem she has ever had to solve.

For their joint birthdays, she made Mum-Queen and Dad-King a wing-thing and they were last seen two days ago soaring over the castle walls and haven’t returned.  Because hard times have fallen, there is no staff left at the castle and so Shona is on her own with 15 chickens (who at least lay eggs so she has food) and an old horse called Wildfire.  To make matters worse, the drawbridge is up and so she can’t get out to start looking for them, because surely if they could get back, they would be…

With all the elements of a good story about princesses including gloomy, scary woods nearby, a dragon who sings but apparently can’t fly, shysters who pretend to be her parents and so on, this is a great novel for any young independent reader who has dreamed of being a princess – but one who is resilient and resourceful rather than waiting for some handsome prince to rescue her.  They will relate to her bubbly personality that refuses to be daunted and like me, will want to keep reading to find out what really did happen to Mum-Queen and Dad-King and whether they are safe. Have they been kidnapped or has her Wing-Thing gone horribly wrong, as so many of her other “solutions” do? 

 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters

Miss Mary-Kate Martin's Guide to Monsters

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters (series)

The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chiu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760526627

The earth trembled as the creature left its lair at night.  It wound its way across the fields and slunk over the town bridge.  It slithered across the churchyard and its skin shimmered as it slid past the windows of the sleeping children,  Its shadow raced along the stone walls by the light of the mood.  It glided across the village green and then silently through the cobblestoned streets,  It went past the pub and the tiny teashops, past the village library, searing. It had known the place for centuries. In the market square it stopped.

It let out a screech that was wild and full of rage.

That cry echoed down the laneways, through the thatched roof cottages, reverberated over the fields.

It was a noise that had not been heard for many years. 

“Meanwhile, dressed in sparkly red shoes with her matching backpack, and carrying her strawberry-scented notebook, Mary-Kate is accompanying her archaeologist mother to the tranquil English countryside to investigate some interesting bones found in an old well. But once they arrive, they realise that the village of Woolington is not as peaceful as it seems. Mysterious noises, earth tremors and a terrifying legend have the locals frightened.

Could there be any truth in the myth of the beast who lives in the ancient well? And if so, why would it return? Mary-Kate might be anxious, but she is not afraid to get to the bottom of this monstrous mystery.”

However, Mary-Kate is not the intrepid adventurer that the publisher’s blurb portrays.  In fact, she is a rather anxious child who likes to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, and while her mother may be used to going off on these sorts of expeditions, Mary-Kate usually stays with her grandmother, which she much prefers. Even the few days away from school which has been Triple H lately – horrible, horrendous and hideous- are little consolation So, reluctantly, she packs her bag with her lucky items – the seven pieces of gum left by her father before he disappeared on Mt Shishapangma; her torch shaped like Big Ben, her little jar with 33 international coins in it and her stress ball shaped like a miniature world globe – and heads off to Woolington Well with her mother. 

This is a new release from the author of Lenny’s Book of Everything  winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature, and Dragon Skin. shortlisted for the 2022 CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers and it is ideal for those who like a fantasy-adventure in which they can put themselves into the story as a character rather than an observer.  Being a sucker for anything set in ye olde English villages, it had me at the prologue but I remained hooked and read well past my bedtime as I willed Mary-Kate and Arabella on as they gradually work out why the wyrm, a “huge limbless and wingless dragon or dragon-like creature” has emerged again and is causing so much destruction, while both learn much about themselves as they do.  

Something different to share as a class read-aloud that will be followed by another in the series  The Trouble with the Two-headed Hydra- so readers can continue sharing Mary-Kate’s adventures.