Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: Dragon's Keep, by Janet Lee Carey

     Evaine turned to face the wizard. "Have you read my destiny in the stars?"
     "Not your destiny, Evaine, but one that will come long after."
     "What shall her name be?"
     Merlin shook his head. "Names are not written in the stars, but destinies. The signs all point to the twenty-first queen of Wilde Island." He stepped to the window and peered into the night. "Three things the stars say of this queen. She shall redeem the name Pendragon. End war with the wave of her hand. And restore the glory of Wilde Island."
     He tilted his head. "And yet I see darkly in the stars...a beast."

Princess Rosalind longs to be free of her golden gloves, to feel the breeze blow through the fingers of her bare hands. But she cannot. Her mother, Queen Gweneth, forbids it until such time as a cure can be found. For the gloves conceal a terrible secret - one known only to the two of them. If any other in their dragon-plagued kingdom were to discover her flaw, how could Rosalind become Wilde Island's twenty-first queen, and fulfill the wizard Merlin's 600-year-old prophesy?

When the dragon wrenches Rosalind from her home and wings her away to Dragon's Keep, the destiny she has known of all her life - yet never fully understood - unfolds in ways she never saw coming.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Dragon's Keep has a king's ransom of ways it can be used in your classroom. How about as a launching pad for a unit on early Medieval England? You can develop lessons on the battle for the throne between Empress Matilda and King Stephen, typical castle life/peasant life of the time, modes of travel, and how medical care was administered and by whom, for starters. You can even do a fun mini-lesson on superstitions held during early medieval times.

Or how about a language arts unit? Do a few lessons centered around medieval England myth and legend: Merlin, King Arthur and his court, dragons, and prophesy. Delve into the book's story structure and genre: discuss and itentify items such as plot twists, mystery elements, adventure elements, and fantasy elements, and how they work.

You could even touch on some science, working the book into a unit on endangered species. How? Dragons are nearly gone from the world in Dragon's Keep. Use this fantasy endangered animal to connect kids to our own endangered animals, and what makes them that way: loss of habitat, misunderstandings of the animal by humans, changing environments that threaten its existence, etc. 

You could also get a really interesting discussion going about accidental advocacy for an animal. Rosalind comes to Dragon's Keep with a firm set of beliefs about dragons - most of them not pretty. But soon, her forced situation shows her a very different picture of dragons, and it changes her perception, as well as her actions. Perhaps your students could do some research, presenting what they discover about people in the real world who've become unlikely champions of a much-maligned or negatively-perceived animal.

But most importantly, Dragon's Keep is a great story, and one your students will have a hard time putting down.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Dragon's Keep explores the bonds of family, and the different dynamics that come into play. Some parents will do almost anything for the success and future happiness of their children. But if they're not careful, what starts out as well-intentioned acts can quickly devolve into ones not nearly so noble. Or right. Rosalind's bond with her mother is strong, and at first she believes her mother capable of no wrong. But as the story progresses, Rosalind begins to see that that is not quite so, even as she realizes the Queen does what she does in large part for love of her daughter. 

Families sometimes have complicated bonds, and navigating those relationships can often be confusing. This book does a balanced job of showing many facets of family relationships, both good and not so good, and how one young girl finds a way to navigate them while not losing her own sense of right and wrong. And equally as important, she learns a lot of things about herself in the process.
For the Kids:
Dragon's Keep. I know. The book totally had you at "Dragon," didn't it? And when you go out and find this book, and read it, you will pat yourself on the back for your excellent judgement. It not only has dragons, but also kings, and queens, and a princess, and mystery, and adventure, and secrets, and an age-old prophesy, and magic. Here's the deal: Rosalind is a princess with a secret - one her mother believes would cause the kingdom to turn its back on her and her family if anyone were to find out about it. So her mother forces her to hide her flaw with a pair of golden gloves until a cure is found.

But while those golden gloves protect her terrible secret from being discovered, they can't protect her from being snatched by the bloodthirsty dragon that terrorizes the kingdom. He whisks her away to his home, Dragon's Keep. And soon, Rosalind comes to learn that most of what she thought she knew, wasn't quite what it seemed to be.

For Everyone Else:
Who doesn't love a good story - especially one with connections to the legendary King Arthur? But Dragon's Keep is not just another King Arthur story. It picks up 600 years after Arthur's time, with one of his sister's descendents: a princess with a lofty destiny, but who hides a terrible secret. At least she thinks it is. But when she's snatched away by a dragon, her life takes turns she never thought it would. And then she starts to see her secret, and Merlin's prophesy - and herself - in a whole different way.
Wrapping Up:
Dragons, a secret, and an age-old prophesy. Mystery, magic, and adventure. Dragon's Keep is full of twists and turns and excitement. It's a book not to be missed.

Title: Dragon's Keep
Author: Janet Lee Carey
Cover Illustration: Patrick Scullin (dragon) and Cliff Nielsen (hand)
Cover Design: Kelly Eismann
Pages: 320
Reading Level: Ages 12 and up
Publisher and Date: Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, Inc.
Edition: First Magic Carpet Books edition, 2008
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $7.95
ISBN-10: 015206401X
ISBN-13: 978-0-15-206401-3

Author Spotlight: Janet Lee Carey

Janet Lee Carey's desire to become a writer grew from a love of books she had acquired from the time she was small:
"I always loved reading. After school, I'd rush home and settle myself in the high branches of a tree to read all about Narnia or Middle-earth. Every book was a secret door and I wanted in."

She began writing poetry in eighth grade. That and her journal writing ultimately led her to write novels beginning in her late 20's. Though she currently writes fantasy fiction for children and adults, she leaves herself open to the stories that reveal themselves to her - fantasy, or otherwise.

Ms Carey often fields questions about writing via letters, during presentations, or in emails, and she answers many of these on the FAQ page of her official website. On the subject of where to get story ideas, she offers several thoughts, including this one:
"I think most of the stories wait down inside a person, like a secret storyteller. Things that happen in the outside world awaken the storyteller, and suddenly she begins to speak. So it's not so much a matter of making the stories up, as learning how to sit very still, and listen."

In her career, Janet Lee Carey has taught at Lake Washington Technical College, and leads professional writing seminars and workshops for both children and adults. She has written eight novels for kids and teens - each of which is linked to a charitable organization, "empowering readers," she says, "to make a difference in the world." 

She has won various awards for her novels, including: the Mark Twain Award in 2005 for Wenny Has Wings (published in 2002), an ALA Best Books for Young Adults award for Dragon's Keep (published in 2007), and a Teens Read Too Gold Star Award for Excellence for The Dragon of Noor (published in 2012).

Born in New York on January 11, 1954, and raised in Mill Valley, California, Ms Carey now lives near Seattle, Washington. She is married, with 3 sons. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, swimming, canoeing, reading, yoga, spending time with family, and taking long walks. 

Janet Lee Carey official site - About the Author
Janet Lee Carey - Wikipedia
Seattle Author: An Imagination Gone Wild - Seattle Wrote
Author Interview: Janet Lee Carey - The Magic Attic
Author Interview: Janet Lee Carey on Dragon's Keep - Cynsations
Author Janet Lee Carey - Watch. Connect. Read.