Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons - Part 3 of 3

Today marks the last day of the First-Ever Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. Time sure flies when you're celebrating dragons.

Confused? Check out the three bulleted links below, and they will bring you up to speed. Then come on back here to join us for the final festivities of Chez Wheedleton's 2013 celebration of Appreciate a Dragon Day:

All caught up? Alrighty then. Off we go:

Even More Dragon Book Revelry!
Since this is our last celebratory post, we've filled this list with four books that are completely full of dragons, dragons, dragons. Enjoy:

Written by Rachel Hartman
Ages 12 and up

In the kingdom of Goredd, distrust between dragonkind and humans runs high, despite a forty year peace. Tensions have been stretched as the anniversary of the treaty approaches. And upon discovery of the suspiciously dragon-like murder of the beloved Prince Rufus, relations are even more strained.

It is in this atmosphere that sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh comes to live at court. Seraphina's new position highlights the unusual musical talents that her father has desperately tried all of her life to keep hidden, and that Seraphina has stubbornly pushed all of her life to be free to share. But despite her stubbornness where her musical talents are concerned, she does all she can to conceal another secret part of herself - a part that, if ever discovered, would mean her end.

Despite great risk of exposure, Seraphina helps Prince Lucian Kiggs - captain of the Queen's Guard, heir to the throne, and Glisselda's intended - to investigate Prince Rufus' murder. Glisselda becomes involved, as well, as the three of them uncover what they fear is a secret plot to destroy the peace. All the while, Seraphina struggles to keep her own personal secret. Yet the more she tries to protect herself, the more she stumbles upon new and confusing parts of herself - parts which may hold the key to foiling the plot and preserving the peace. Unless Seraphina can find a way to understand and control these new self-discoveries, she cannot hope to be able to use them. Should she fail, the tenuous peace between dragonkind and humans is doomed to shatter, and the awful fate her father has fought all of her life to prevent is doomed to come true.

Written by Christopher Paolini
Ages 12 and up

When fifteen-year-old Eragon comes upon a polished blue stone deep in the forest of a mystical mountain range known as The Spine, he is wary. It is not like any polished stone he has ever seen before. Was it meant for him, or had he found something he shouldn't have?

He eventually decides it would make a good trade for enough meat for the winter. When he is unable to make a trade, he takes it home. And then one day the "stone" cracks, and soon a beautiful, sapphire-blue creature emerges from within - a dragon he comes to name Saphira. Eragon is astonished - the race of dragons were believed to have become extinct long ago, at the hands of the evil King Galbatorix.

Eragon keeps Saphira hidden in the forest, where he cares for her in secret, and the two soon form an inseparable bond. With the help of an old storyteller named Brom, Eragon discovers the responsibility he now bears - he is the last Dragon Rider. Together with Saphira, they are the only hope of the Varden, dwarves, and elves, who have joined forces in the coming war against the evil King Galbatorix, to try and unseat the king and take back the Empire.

The Discovery of Dragons
Written and illustrated by Graeme Base (a.k.a. Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc.)
Ages 8 and up

From the "notably undistinguished Victorian scientist," Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc. (Serpentology) F.R.Aud., comes this beautifully fully illustrated collection of rare historical documents which the good scientist asserts prove not only the discovery of dragons, but also the existence of the dragons' discoverers themselves.

Said discoverers, who are three in number, include: Bjorn of Bromme - Viking pillager of 9th century Europe; Soong Mei Ying - youngest daughter of a Chinese silk trader, and traveler on the Silk Road in the 13th century; and mid-nineteenth-century Prussian cartographer Dr. E. F. Liebermann - whose letters were typed on the world's very first typewriter from within the confines of the African jungle.

These letters Mr. Greasebeam has collected - some hand-written, some typed, all presented alongside wonderfully detailed sketches, drawings and paintings - chronicle the writers' fabulous adventures and heart-pounding encounters with dragons they came upon in their respective travels. A must-read for any true dragon enthusiast! But, are these tales fact? Or fantasy? Ah, well, that we must leave up to the discretion of the reader, mustn't we?

Dr. Ernest Drake's Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons
Edited by Dugald A. Steer, B.A. (Brist), S.A.S.D.
Illustrated by Wayne Anderson, Douglas Carrel and Helen Ward
Ages 8 and up

Dugald A. Steer, B.A. (Brist), S.A.S.D., presents a collection of the long-lost dragon research of nineteenth century dragonologist Dr. Ernest Drake. But, are these presentations legend, or fact, or a mixture of both? Whatever the answer, there is an abundance of information for one to sift through in order to make one's own determination: drawings, sketches, paintings, maps, scale samples, scientific name designations, and page after page of written material.

Dr. Drake discusses differences between dragon species, examines dragon legends, and lists characteristics of various dragon types as well as possible related creatures. He details the life cycle of a dragon, dragon behavior, and how to track and find dragons. And once you've found them, Dr. Drake provides suggestions on how a dragon might be tamed. He even includes a set of three quite interesting appendices at the end, one of which contains "Useful Spells & Charms."

Entertaining? Undoubtedly.

Interesting? Most assuredly.

A fascinating tome that even the most discriminating of dragon enthusiasts will treasure? Incontrovertibly.

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We hope you enjoyed Chez Wheedleton's 2013 celebration of Appreciate a Dragon Day. Thank you for joining us!

If you have suggestions of dragon books to include for next year's Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons celebration, please send an email to the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons - Part 2 of 3

Welcome to the second day of the First-Ever Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons, which is in turn part of our Appreciate a Dragon Day celebration here at Chez Wheedleton.

Not sure what this is all about? Click the following two links to get caught up, and then come on back here so we can continue the festivities:

Ah! You're back! Best get to it then, shall we?

More Dragon Book Revelry! 
We have four more books to share today. Just like Part One's list, each book below 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 celebrate Appreciate a Dragon Day:

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Written and illustrated by Grace Lin
Ages 9-12

Minli, her parents and the rest of the villagers who live in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain spend long, hard hours tromping about in the mud, backs bent as they tend their rice fields each day. But for Minli, each evening holds a bright spot, for it is then that her father tells her wondrous tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Her mother, who has grown weary of their poor life, admonishes her father against filling Minli's head with nonsense, but Minli not only enjoys the tales, but believes them to be true.

One day, Minli buys a goldfish from a goldfish man who comes to their village. But there is not enough food to go around, and Minli realizes she cannot keep it. When she goes to the river to set the goldfish free, Minli makes a startling discovery, which sends her off on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon from her father's stories. He is said to know the answers to all of life's questions, and Minli intends to ask him how her family's fortunes might be changed. Minli meets many interesting and sometimes magical folk along the way, including a dragon who decides to join her in her quest. But can they find the Old Man of the Moon? And even if they do, will he help?

The Dragon of Cripple Creek
Written by Troy Howell
Ages 8 and up

When twelve-year-old, gold-loving, adventure-seeking Katlin Graham takes the tour of the old Molly Kathleen Gold Mine, she can't resist stepping past a barricade to get to what she thinks may be a bit of real gold. And that's when things go very wrong. The lights suddenly go out, the planks beneath her feet give way, and Kat falls deep into the pitch-black mine, in a part most certainly not on the tour. Injured and afraid, she has no choice but to feel her way through the unknown tunnel she's fallen into, and hope it leads to a way out.

When she finally sees light up ahead, it's not the way out she was hoping for. It's the lair of an ancient dragon named Ye. Ye is the last of his kind. And he is dying. But he can show her the way out. Before he does so, Ye tells Kat of the extraordinary truth about gold, and about the one cure that keeps a dragon from dying. Despite what he's told her, Kat can't resist swiping a nugget of gold as she follows Ye to the way out of the mine.

Back above ground, Kat finds herself in the midst of a media frenzy. In all the commotion of cameras and interviews, the gold falls from her pocket - right in plain view. The sight of that little bit of gold sets off a whole new gold rush in the rowdy western town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. It also sets off shame in Kat that she's taken Ye's gold despite the truth she's learned. So she determines to set things right. But can she find a way to return Ye's gold? And if she does, can she save him not only from discovery, but from death, as well?

Dragon Rider
Written by Cornelia Funke
Ages 7 and up

Firedrake lives in the valley of the dragons with his dragon kin. But Rat has come to sound the alarm: humans are making their way to the valley, with plans to flood it for their own purposes. The dragons' home will be lost. If the dragons are to survive, they must leave.

Yet, there is hope. The oldest dragon in the valley, Slatebeard, has memories of another home. One safe from humans - the Rim of Heaven. If they are to save themselves, this is where the dragons must go. Only Slatebeard doesn't remember exactly where it is. So he tells the assembled dragons what he can: that its mountains are the highest in the world, with moonstone caves amongst its slopes, and that there is a valley floor in the middle of those mountains that is covered in blue flowers.

Young Firedrake volunteers to make the journey to find the Rim of Heaven. He is accompanied by his constant companion, a young brownie named Sorrel. Rat has a map-maker cousin who she feels sure can point them in the right direction, if only they can get to him undetected - for he lives in a big human city. Can Firedrake and Sorrel get to Rat's cousin undiscovered? Will Rat's cousin have a map that will lead them to the Rim of Heaven? And if they find the Rim of Heaven, can they get back in time to save the others?

The Kingdom of Fantasy (Geronimo Stilton)
Written by Geronimo Stilton
Ages 7 and up

Geronimo Stilton, spectacle-wearing, mild-mannered mouse, and best-selling author and publisher of The Rodent's Gazette newspaper, has once again found himself the reluctant hero in the middle of an adventure he was in no way trying to find.

This time, the trail of a shooting star beams right through Geronimo's open attic window, lighting up a glittering crystal music box at his feet - one Geronimo has never seen before. As he's examining that music box, he hears a sound, and turns to find that the star trail has turned into a staircase made of golden dust leading up and up and up. So Geronimo does what any self-respecting, scared-yet-curious mouse would do: He grabs a bag of supplies, and he climbs that staircase.

At the top of the staircase is a golden door. Behind the door is a crystal cave. Within the cave is a Literary Frog named Scribblehopper, who believes Geronimo is nothing less than a Fair Knight in Shining Armor. From Scribblehopper, Geronimo learns that he is in the Kingdom of Fantasy, that Blossom, Queen of the Fairies is in terrible danger, and that Queen Blossom believes only Geronimo can save her. Geronimo sighs. What else can he do? He raises his paw and solemnly promises to save the Queen of the Fairies.

Sir Geronimo of Stilton and Scribblehopper the Literary Frog journey through (and face many dangers in) six different Kingdoms - including the Kingdom of the Dragons - before they reach the Kingdom of the Fairies. But, once there, will Sir Geronimo have what it takes to save the Queen?

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I hope you've enjoyed Part Two: More Dragon Book Revelry, of the First-Ever Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons.  

Please come back on Tuesday, January 15, when we present Part Three: Even More Dragon Book Revelry, with not three - as I previously stated - but four more books, since I found one more dragon book hiding amongst the other books on our shelves. (And isn't that a wonderful bit of serendipity?)


Friday, January 11, 2013

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons - Part 1 of 3

If you've been visiting Bugs and Bunnies for at least the past two years, you may already be familiar with Appreciate a Dragon Day. If you've forgotten, click on the link at the end of that first sentence to get re-familiarized. Then come on back to see what's in store for this year's celebration.

If you're new here, first of all: Welcome! And second: If you didn't already click on the Appreciate a Dragon Day link, here's a brief description of what the day is all about: Celebrated annually on January 16th, the day was created in 2004 by author Donita K. Paul to celebrate the release of her novel DragonSpell (WaterBrook Press, 2004). For the more in-depth description, click on the link in the first paragraph, but don't forget to come back to this one to join in this year's festivities.

Appreciate a Dragon Day is a big hit here at Chez Wheedleton. At least one of us is a very big dragon enthusiast, and we all enjoy celebrating the day. In past years, we've made pipe cleaner dragons. We've made dragon cookies. We've drawn and colored pictures of dragons. We've checked out dragon books from our local library. We've purchased a fair share of dragon books. We've watched dragon movies. We've even ridden more than a few dragon-themed roller coasters.

This year, we're celebrating by sharing some of our favorite dragon books here at Bugs and Bunnies. We've quite a list, so I've broken it into three parts. Part One is right here, right now, with a list of four dragon books that we've loved and that I've reviewed here before. Part Two will post on Monday, January 14, 2013, featuring four more dragon books we've read and loved but that I haven't shared here before. Our celebration will conclude with Part Three, which will post on Tuesday, January 15, featuring the final three dragons books we've read and loved but not yet shared here.

Now that all the explanatory stuff is out of the way:

Let the Dragon Book Revelry begin!
Each book below 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 celebrate Appreciate a Dragon Day:

How to Train Your Dragon
Written and illustrated by Cressida Cowell
Ages 8-12

Hiccup is the son of the Hairy Hooligans' Viking chief, and destined to take over that leadership from his father. But first, he - along with all the other boys his age in the tribe - must successfully complete an important rite of initiation: climb up into the dragon cave, locate the dragon nursery, bag a sleeping juvenile dragon for his lifelong companion, and get out. All without waking up the rest of the hundreds of dragons slumbering there, who will surely pursue the boys and ensure a rather grisly end to their quest. And then, he has to prove his mastery over this dangerous creature by training it. The problem is that Hiccup is not very much like his mighty Viking father, and not very like a typical Viking, for that matter. In fact, the other boys have dubbed him Hiccup the Useless, all except his loyal friend Fishlegs. Can he complete this quest, fulfill his destiny, and earn the respect of the tribe? Or will he end up a charbroiled dragon snack? 

Kenny & the Dragon
Written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Ages 8 and up

Kenny is a book-loving rabbit who lives with his farming mother and father. One day, his father bursts in from the sheep field in a panic, announcing that they must pack their things ASAP and light out of there, because he just saw a real, live, dragon! At the top of their very hill! After consulting his borrowed copy of a bestiary, Kenny persuades his parents to let him go check it out. Once he finally meets the dragon, he realizes the bestiary isn't entirely accurate concerning his new friend. But then the townspeople get wind of the dragon, and are so frightened that they prepare to rid themselves of it. Can Kenny show the townspeople that the dragon is not what they think? Or, will he have to make the impossible choice of saving a new friend, or saving an old one? 

The Shamer's Daughter
Written by Lene Kaaberbol
Ages 9-12

Ten-year-old Dina Tonerre has very special eyes, but no one wants to meet them. Even her own friends gradually stop looking directly at her, and don't play with her anymore. She inherited those eyes from her mother, The Shamer. A Shamer is a person with the gift of reading a person's soul, of being able to see everything a person is ashamed of. But as Dina soon learns, it is a gift that is both blessing and curse, and she's not at all sure she wants it. 

Her mother is sentenced to be fed to the dragons because she won't condemn a boy accused of murder - a crime that, after looking into his eyes, she is adamant that he did not commit. Dina is tricked into joining her mother at the castle where she is being held, by the very man who has decided her mother's fate. But when she meets the accused boy, she sees what her mother did - that he is innocent. 

With the help of unlikely allies, Dina embarks on a perilous journey to discover the true killer, and to save her mother and the boy. Along the way, she learns about trust and friendship, and finds the courage to accept who she is.

Dragon's Keep
Written by Janet Lee Carey
Ages 12 and up 

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.

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I hope you've enjoyed Part One: Dragon Book Revelry, of the First-Ever Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons.  

Please come back on Monday, January 14, 2013, and join us for Part Two: More Dragon Book Revelry

And mark your calendar to return again on Tuesday, January 15, when we present Part Three: Even More Dragon Book Revelry.