Friday, January 3, 2014

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 1 of 5

Today is the first Friday in January, which means it's time to begin the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons!

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident dragon expert:  Lovely Girl

If you're new here, you'll probably want some backstory...
A Literary Appreciation of Dragons is a series where we feature books with some sort of dragon connection, with posts appearing each Friday in January. It began here at Bugs and Bunnies as part of our 2012 observance of Appreciate a Dragon Day - a holiday celebrated annually on January 16th. The day officially came into being ten years ago, courtesy of author Donita K. Paul, to celebrate the release of her novel, DragonSpell (Waterbrook Press, 2004). Want more details? Click on any of the links above for all kinds of dragony fun. When you've had your fill, come on back here, and we'll get started with this year's bookish dragon festivities.

Back now? Fabulous! Let's get to it, shall we?
Since there are five Fridays in January this year, we'll have five fab days to post about all sorts of dragon books, from picture books to middle grade to young adult.

Today's post features three books. The first has been seen here on Bugs and Bunnies once before, as part of 2013's Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series (Installment #15). The second is a classic I found at my local library, and the third is one our very own Lovely Girl loved so much she wrote the summary herself. Each book featured in this series deals with dragons on its own terms; in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so. But reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to appreciate a dragon:    

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Written by Catherynne M. Valente
Illustrations by Ana Juan
Ages 10 and up

Twelve-year-old September is a young girl living an ordinary life in Nebraska, and she is quite tired of it. The Green Wind notices, and decides to swoop in through her kitchen window and offer her an escape. September jumps at the chance, joining the Green Wind on his Leopard of Little Breezes and trying her best to listen to the rules she must follow as they fly on to Fairyland. But the Green Wind can take her only to the border.

Once there, a surly gnome named Betsy Basilstalk pushes September through, but not before flinging some golden jelly in her eyes so she can see Fairyland as it actually is. Once in Fairyland, September encounters witches named Hello, Goodbye, and Manythanks (one of whom is a wairwulf – not to be confused with a werewolf). They send her on a quest to retrieve Goodbye's spoon, stolen from her nine years before by the Marquess – an individual quite young yet greatly feared by those in Fairyland. In return, September asks the witches for safe passage back to her home, as well as a favor as yet unnamed.

Bargain struck, September sets off. Along the way, she befriends a "wyverary" named A-Through-L (who believes he has a wyvern for a mother, and a library for a father), a marid named Saturday, and a 112-year-old living paper lantern named Gleam, who all journey with her at one time or another. And it's a good thing she has them, because this quest that she hoped would be very straightforward? Turns out to be anything but.

My Father's Dragon
Written by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Ages 8-12

Elmer Elevator is a young boy with a kind heart who takes in an old stray cat in need of a warm place to sleep and a full stomach. The cat tells Elmer about a captive baby dragon he had met once on faraway Wild Island. The dragon is chained to a post so he cannot not fly away, and he is forced to ferry the island's lazy wild animals back and forth across the river. When Elmer hears this, well, what do you think he does?

That's right – he decides to find that poor baby dragon and set him free. The journey, the old cat warns him, will not be easy: First, Elmer must stow away on a ship for the long trip. Once he finds the island, he will face dark nights, and dangerous animals who won't be pleased at losing their means of river crossing. Despite the dangers, Elmer packs a knapsack with supplies and off he goes, determined to save that dragon.

The Last Dragonslayer
Written by Jasper Fforde
Ages 10-14
*summary written by Lovely Girl

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange has her hands full enough already with trying to manage the forty-five sorcerers, movers, soothsayers, shifters, weather-mongers, carpenteers, and other assorted magical artisans at Kazam Mystical Arts Management, especially now that magic is fading. Things get a lot more complicated when pre-cognitives across the Ununited Kingdoms begin to have premonitions that the last dragon, Maltcassion, will die the next Sunday at the hands of a Dragonslayer.

Now, people from across the world are converging on the edge of the Dragonlands between the Kingdom of Hereford and the Duchy of Brecon in hopes of snatching up free property after the dragon's death, and sorcerers everywhere are whispering of the approach of Big Magic.

Jennifer is thrust right in the middle of things when she's named the Last Dragonslayer. She is now expected to mediate a war, and balance all of her media appearances, product endorsements, and marriage proposals. And on top of all that, she must slay the dragon Maltcassion. There's just one problem: She doesn't want to kill him.

* * *

Wasn't that a ton of dragon-appreciative fun? Be sure to come back next Friday, January 10th, for Part 2 of 5, with three more books full of literary dragon adventures!

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