Friday, January 31, 2014

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 5 of 5

And so, we've come to the final post – Part 5 of 5 – for the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. If you're new here, or new to the series, clicking on the link above will give you all the details. When you're done, don't forget to come on back to this post and see what's in store for today.

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

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.

Of the three dragon books we're sharing today, two are fun and full of fabulous illustrations, and one is a treasure trove of dragon myth, legend, and lore:

Serious Trouble
Written and illustrated by Arthur Howard
Ages 4 - 8

Ernest is a boy with a serious-sounding name, the son of serious people – King Olaf and Queen Olive – who expect him (as a future king) to be equally serious. Yet, despite the King and Queen's expectations, young Ernest wishes to be neither serious nor king. In fact, he tells his incredulous parents, he wishes to be...a jester.

One day, when Ernest rushes outside to practice some jokes, he comes face-to-face with the kingdom's serious problem: a fire-breathing, people-eating, three-headed dragon, which makes clear its plans to live up to the people-eating part of its serious reputation. Ernest begs it not to, then manages to escape as the dragon's heads argue amongst themselves. Unfortunately, his escape is brief.

Wrapped inside the dragon's tail and on the verge of being eaten, Ernest proposes a deal to his captor's three heads: If he can make them laugh, he goes free. The dragons decide to give him two chances. Or maybe three. So Ernest gets to work on some serious jestering. But will it be enough to overcome such a very serious predicament?

Written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon
ages 8 - 12

Danny Dragonbreath is a carefree kind of dragon, but he does have a few irritations. The best he's ever been able to manage in the fire-breathing department is a bit of smoke from his nostrils, despite his dad's entreaties to "Think hot thoughts." And he's a daily target for Komodo dragon Big Eddy, who loves to taunt Danny about that lack of fire-breathing ability. But for now, he's facing more pressing problems. His science report on "The Rare and Elusive Snorklebat" – which he totally made up on the 15 minute ride to school that morning – earned him a big, fat, red "F," plus a new assignment: Rewrite the paper. On a real ocean topic. By tomorrow.

Danny's first approach to the problem is to hope for a snow day. But his ever-practical best friend, an iguana named Wendell, points out that's not likely, since it's April. Then Wendell suggests a research trip to the library, which does not go over well. But when Danny's mother suggests a research trip to his sea serpent cousin, Danny agrees wholeheartedly. So, a very excited Danny and a very apprehensive Wendell take the bus to a rickety dock on the Sargasso Sea for a visit with cousin Edward.

Wendell is petrified by the undersea tour, but Danny is thrilled by the creatures they encounter: a barfing sea cucumber, a color-changing octopus, and a snot-shooting vampire squid, to name a few. But when a giant squid comes after them, Danny's thrill turns to fear. Though Edward tries to draw the enormous creature away, the tactic doesn't work, and eventually it wraps its tentacles around Wendell, pulling him towards its giant chomping beak. Danny is beside himself with terror, wracking his brain trying to think of something, anything he could do, to try and save his friend. But what can such a small dragon do against something so big?

Dragons: The Myths, Legends, and Lore
Written by Doug Niles
Foreword by Margaret Weis
Ages: Young adult and up

This book is a nicely organized collection of the history of dragons within various cultures and peoples of the world via their folklore, art, mythology and poetry, beginning from antiquity and continuing all the way up through the fiction, films and games of modern pop culture. Within its pages, the reader will find descriptions and illustrations of various dragon types, as well as retellings of the legends and folklore surrounding specific dragons.

* * *

Here ends our literary dragon fun for the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. We hope you've enjoyed the journey!

Be sure to come back in January 2015, when we'll present a whole new set of dragon books to revel in. And in the meantime, feel free to contact us and let us know of any dragon books you just love that you'd like to see included in next year's celebrations. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 4 of 5

Three down, two to go: Today marks Part 4 of 5 for the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. If you're new here and wondering what all the fuss is about, click on the link above, and that should get you nicely up to speed. Then come on back here to continue the festivities.

If you already know what's up (or you're new but now up to speed), you'll probably be wanting to get right to it. Scroll on, then, and let's get started.

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

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.

Today we have three more books to share. Two involve helping a brand-new-from-the-egg dragon get its start in this life. The third involves a typical dragon-and-princess scenario that comes about through decidedly non-typical circumstances:

The Egg
Written and illustrated by M. P. Robertson
Ages 5 - 8

George does what any self-respecting boy would do when he finds an enormous egg under his mother's favorite chicken: He takes it to his room, where he keeps it warm and reads it stories.

And when the egg hatches three days and nights later, out comes a dragon who seems delighted when he sees George. And so, George takes on the motherly duty of teaching the dragon some "dragony ways." There are flying lessons, and fire-breathing lessons, and lessons in rescuing damsels in distress. He even teaches the dragon how to defeat a knight, and reads him dragon tales in the evenings.

But one day, the dragon becomes lonely for his own kind, and George can only sadly wonder: Is this the end of his days with the dragon?

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Written by Bruce Coville
Illustrated by Gary A. Lippincott
Ages 9 - 12

Sixth grader Jeremy Thatcher, on the run from two bullies intent on making him submit to a rather insistent girl's kiss, suddenly finds himself in a part of his small town that he's never seen before, in a small magic shop he's never been in before, unintentionally buying what he thinks is a mysterious marble.

When he gets home, Jeremy gets out the instruction sheet the shop's owner gave him, and can hardly believe what he reads there: What he has bought is not a marble. It's a dragon egg, and he's now charged with both hatching and raising the beast - neither of which he knows anything about. 

Hatching the egg turns out to be fairly simple, but raising the dragon he names Tiamat is not, even with help from Miss Priest, the town's librarian, and – to Jeremy's great surprise – Mary Lou Hutton, the girl who was so fervently determined to kiss him the day he got the egg.

But when the shop owner sends another note a few months later, Jeremy discovers hatching and raising a dragon are not nearly as hard to do as what what must come next - seeing that dragon home.

Dealing With Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One
Written by Patricia C. Wrede
Ages 10 and up

Princess Cimorene of Linderwall does not fit the customary princess mold. She is dark-haired, instead of fair like her six sisters. She is tall, instead of petite like her six sisters. She does not enjoy princess-ly lessons in etiquette or embroidery, and does all she can to wrangle fencing lessons or magic lessons for herself – at least until her parents get wind of what she's doing and ends them. And as for her disposition? Well, "strong-minded" is a phrase often aimed her way, and sometimes, "stubborn as a pig."

One day, Cimorene learns of her parents' plans to marry her off to Therandil, prince of a neighboring kingdom, thereby taking her off of their exasperated hands. Frustrated and angry, she despairs of ever living an exciting life. But then she meets a talking frog who points her in the direction of a source of help. Following the frog's advice to the letter, Cimorene soon finds herself in a damp, dark hovel, conversing with unseen voices. It's not until a ball of light illuminates things that she finally lays eyes on those she's conversing with: Dragons!

Frightened at first, Cimorene slowly begins to see a way out of the boring life her parents have planned for her. It is a bold idea, and what she proposes shocks the dragons: What kind of young woman volunteers to be a dragon's princess?

* * *

Time does fly when one is having literary dragon fun, and we are nearly done for 2014. Join us next Friday, January 31st, for Part 5 of 5, where we'll share three more books in the final post of the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 3 of 5

Yesterday, January 16th, 2014, was Appreciate a Dragon Day. We here at Chez Wheedleton spent the day reading dragon books to mark the occasion. But yesterday wasn't our only day of literary revelry in all things dragon.

Here at Bugs and Bunnies, we choose to appreciate dragons not only on Appreciate a Dragon Day, but also on every Friday in January - sharing with our readers the dragon books we've read in the past year that we think are just fab. And today, Friday, January 17th, is one of those Fridays - the third one of 2014, in fact.

So, welcome to Part 3 of 5 of the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. We're glad you're here.

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

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.

Today's post brings three more dragon-tastic books. Chez Wheedleton's own Handsome Boy writes about the first one. The second one is the first in a series, and the final one is a delightful picture book for the very young:

Dragon Run
Written by Patrick Matthews
Ages 8 - 12  
*summary written by Handsome Boy

Dragons rule over twelve-year-old Al's world. Al is a human, one of the five mortal races created by the Dragons as vessels to gather magic for the Dragons' own use. Al's life up until now has been an ordinary one: He works in the fields his family owns every day, and he comes home every evening.

But everybody starts to become nervous as Testing Day rolls around. Al and the rest of the twelve-year-olds will be tested and assigned a rank, with the number carved on the backs of their necks. What happens to Al on Testing Day will shock everyone, make him a target for the merciless killers known as the Cullers, and ultimately flip his life upside down.

Can Al make things right? How far will the Dragon overlords go to see him dead? Will Al beat the odds? Or will the world take him down?

The Coming of Dragons: The Darkest Age, Book One
Written by A.J. Lake
Ages 8 - 12

Eleven-year-old Edmund, son of King Heored, is traveling in disguise aboard the Spearwa, on his way to Gaul to live with his uncle. Elspeth, also eleven, is aboard as well; the sea-savvy daughter of Master Trymann, the ship's captain. Besides the disguised prince, the Spearwa has another mystery aboard, a wooden chest held fast by a huge, rusted iron padlock with no keyhole.

When a sudden raging storm blows up, its cause is not nature, but a deliberate attack on the Spearwa by the terrible ice dragon, Torment, who has been freed by powerful dark magic from his thousand-year imprisonment in the frozen North. 

By the time the storm abates, the Spearwa is wrecked, and Edmund and Elspeth are the sole survivors. They wash up on the shore at Gullsedge along with the smooth-padlocked chest. All three are found and taken in by an old man named Aagard. While staying with Aagard, Elspeth comes into possession of something she neither asks for nor wants. And Edmund comes to realize he has powerful skills of the mind - ones that frighten and confuse him. Neither Edmund or Elspeth want anything more than to deny what has happened and return to their respective homes, despite Aagard's pleas for them to stay and let him help them.

Aagard tasks the mysterious traveling minstrel, Cluaran, with seeing Edmund and Elspeth safely east and toward their homes, though Cluaran is not happy to do so. On their journey, Edmund and Elspeth face dangers they never imagined coming to bear. They battle unexpected enemies, and gain help in unexpected ways. Even if they can survive these dangers, can they learn to live with the unwanted powers they never knew they had and are unable to refuse?

Waking Dragons
Written by Jane Yolen
Paintings by Derek Anderson

Even the littlest of knights have chores, and this little knight must wake the dragons before school. And so, joined by his faithful pup, the little knight does just that.

But there's more to waking dragons than just rousting them from their dragon-sized beds. There are dragon-sized fangs to be brushed, dragon-sized jammies to put in the hamper, dragon-sized waffles to be launched into dragon-sized mouths, and outdoor clothes to fit on dragon-sized bodies.

And all the little knight's hard work does not go unappreciated. When it comes time for him get to school, he gets a dragon-sized ride!

* * *

Thank you for joining us today! Be sure to come back next Friday, January 24th, 2014, for Part 4 of 5 of the Second Annual Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 2 of 5

Here at Chez Wheedleton, the temperatures have been positively arctic, which is the perfect excuse to stay in and warm up with some celebratory dragon reading during this Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

If you're new here, clicking on the link above will fill you in quite nicely. Once you're all caught up, come on back and continue the literary dragon festivities.

If you've been here before – or if you're new and back now from catching up on things – you're probably itching to get started, so scroll on down to see what's in store today:

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

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. 

For Part 2 of 5, we have three more dragon books to share: one picture book, and two middle grade books. All three have never before been seen here at Bugs and Bunnies (and we wonder how on earth we've missed them all this time):

Not Your Typical Dragon
Written by Dan Bar-el
Illustrated by Tim Bowers
Ages 3 and up

Crispin Blaze is about to turn seven. When the day finally comes, the little dragon sits in front of his birthday cake, excited to light his very own candles with his very own firebreath for the very first time. But when he opens his mouth, all that comes out is...whipped cream! Crispin's father is angry. His mother is worried. His sister is thrilled. (She loves whipped cream.) So his parents take him to the doctor, and Crispin tries again: Bandaids! At fire-breathing practice after school, he tries a third time: Marshmallows!

Despairing that he will ever be a "real dragon," and fearing his family's disappointment, Crispin runs away and hides in a dark cave. Soon, along comes Sir George – a frightened young knight who can't return home without fighting a fire-breathing dragon. He offers to help Crispin find his fire, which they are certain will solve both of their problems. But after a long day of experimenting, they are no closer to their goal, and Sir George takes the little dragon home to his worried parents.

Then who shows up at Crispin's house but Sir George's angry father, the king, who demands an explanation for Sir George's presence there. When he hears about Crispin's predicament, the king laughs, which makes Crispin's father angry. Things soon get very hot indeed, and it seems like all is about to be lost. And then, Crispin feels a bubbling in his belly. So he opens his mouth. But will what comes out be the one thing they need to fix this?

The Last Dragon
Written by Silvana De Mari
Translated from the Italian by Shaun Whiteside
Ages 10 and up

Yorsh is an orphan elf, born lately, and the last of his kind. Humans have forced the elves into the harsh life of the Elf Camps, believing the elves were to blame for the unpleasant turn that life in the world has taken: Everyone is cold, wet, and plagued by hunger. When the rains flood Yorsh's home, his grandmother, who is unable to save herself, commands him to run. So he does.

Trying to survive out in the larger world on his own, Yorsh is on the brink of failure when he comes into the reluctant company of a human woman named Sajra and her unnamed dog. The three are soon joined by an even more reluctant human man named Monser. But these are dangerous times, and the trio are nearly killed in the city of Daligar when Yorsh is recognized as an elf. During their escape, Yorsh discovers a prophesy carved into the stone arches of the city, which says in part that the last elf must find the last dragon, for only when the two meet can the darkness be driven from the world.

Their journey to find the dragon is long and fraught with danger, and when they find him, Sajra, Monser, and the dog Yorsh has named Fido, travel on to make their own lives. Yorsh stays behind, tending to the dragon's every need, all the time believing the prophesy has been fulfilled. Thirteen years later, Yorsh discovers that though he is the elf named in the prophesy, the dragon is not the old one he's been caring for all these years.

It's the new one in the egg about to hatch. And the prophesy is only just beginning.

Dragon Keeper
Written by Carole Wilkinson
Ages 8 - 12

In China, at the remote Imperial Palace at Huangling Mountain, lives a nameless girl, whose only friend is a rat named Hua. She was sold as a slave by her parents long ago to Master Lan, the lazy Imperial Dragon Keeper who neglects the last two imprisoned dragons in his care. When one of the dragons dies, the slave girl determines to better care for the surviving dragon and the dragon stone he so carefully guards.

Over the next several weeks, the dragon's health begins to improve under the girl's care. But then the Emperor pays an unexpected visit, during which the slave girl learns of his plans to sell the sole remaining dragon to a hunter with plans to kill it for further profit. In the slave girl's panicked attempt to help the dragon flee, she finds herself caught up in his escape. Eventually, the dragon convinces the girl to leave behind her miserable existence at the palace and travel with him on his quest to get the dragon stone to a place he calls "Ocean." The journey is long and full of dangers, during which they face both friend and foe alike.

Along the way, the girl learns that she has always had a name, and it is Ping. She learns that the dragon has had many names, but his real name is Long Danzi. She learns that the dragon stone is more than it appears to be. And she learns that she is far more than the nameless, helpless slave girl she had always thought herself to be.

* * *

And so ends Part 2 of 5. Be sure to come back next Friday, January 17th, for Part 3 of 5, when we'll present three more books to further celebrate our Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

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!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

First Foray into Vector Drawing

Two years ago today, I was teaching myself to use a tablet to draw digitally on my computer – a first for me. I am pleased to report that despite a not-so-smooth initial learning curve, I'm enjoying digi-drawing immensely.

This year, I'm expanding my digi-drawing horizons: trying my hand at some very rudimentary vector drawing. Happily, there was considerably less hair-pulling-out, and – thanks to much-appreciated auto-save settings  – absolutely no loss of work. Altogether a much more enjoyable learning process:

And so, this most fashionable snowlady and I wish you and yours a very Happy, very Productive New Year.