Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn and Ornella Greco

So many kids love dragons. Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series has seen a surge of interest in dragon stories at my school in the last couple of years, especially when the graphic novel adaptations (illustrated by Mike Holmes) were released. Some of my readers want to be reading Wings of Fire but they’re a bit too hard for them at the moment, so I’m always looking for slightly easier dragon stories for them. A new series of graphic novels about dragons has just started this year, called Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly, and it’s perfect for those younger or less-confident readers.

In The Coldfire Curse we meet Ruskin and his friends. Ruskin is a young scarlet dragon, who is the pet of the prince of Wrenly. He lives a pampered life, with his own lair and all the food and toys a dragon could ask for. Cinder is a young dragon from the island of Crestwood, whose father has been struck down by the coldfire curse. Cinder ventures to the castle in search of help from the king, but only finds Ruskin. Cinder tells Ruskin about the legend of the scarlet dragon and he agrees to come with her to help her father. With the help of Cinder’s cousin, Groth, the three young dragons set out to break the curse and save all of Wrenly.

In the second book, Shadow Hills, Ruskin hears of a firestorm heading towards Wrenly, which will rain fire from the sky. The only thing that can stop the firestorm are lava rocks, which can absorb the energy of the storm and disintegrate it. The lava rocks are only found on Crestwood, so Ruskin returns to the home of his friends, Cinder and Groth. The witch-dragon Villinelle tells the friends that it is only the enchanted lava rocks in the Shadow Hills that will stop the firestorm, so this is where they head. They soon discover why it is called the Shadow Hills. They are given the enchanted lava rocks by the dragons of Shadow Hills, but they are soon stolen. All hope of saving the kingdom seems lost. Only Ruskin’s mysterious powers will be able to help.

The Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly series is full of enough action, adventure and magic to keep any young dragon fan entertained. The pacing is steady and there is a bit of mystery to each story, so readers will want to keep reading to find out what happens. The stories are broken up into chapters, so there are some good places to pause for less confident readers. They’re great stories to hook younger readers (7-9 year olds) on fantasy and adventure stories, because there are elements of those types of stories, without being too heavy on detail. The illustrations are bold, while also being not too detailed. All of the dragons have unique characteristics, with the younger dragons appearing smaller and younger, and the older dragons appearing weathered and wizened.

With each new story in the series we start to get more of a picture of Ruskin’s powers and how it is that he might fulfill the prophecy of the scarlet dragon. The friendship between Ruskin, Cinder and Groth also develops, while the truth of who the villain might be is still hidden away.

I have loved the first two books in the series and will be looking out for the next in the series (book three and four are also out now). I can’t wait to introduce the series to the kids at my school. I know these books will be snatched up quickly and will spread like wildfire.

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Dragons are so hot right now. Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series is one of the most popular series in my school library and they get spread by word of mouth. Dragons are fascinating so it’s no wonder that authors write stories about them and kids want to read stories about them. One of the things that I love about dragon stories is the weaving of the mythology with fiction. Katie and Kevin Tsang do this so well in their new book, Dragon Mountain. They take the mythology of dragons and weave it in to a fresh story that is exciting and magical.

Billy Chan isn’t excited about going to summer camp in the mountains of China. He’s been given the chance to attend Camp Dragon to help improve his Mandarin and learn more about his Chinese heritage but he’d rather be back in California enjoying the waves. At Camp Dragon he meets Dylan, Charlotte, and Ling-Fei. They’re four very different kids who will become part of something bigger than any of them could have imagined. On a camp activity they discover an entrance in to the imposing mountain that stands over the camp. It’s in the mountain that they discover that dragons aren’t just mythical creatures. They are real and they need Billy and his new friends to help save both the human and dragon world. The kids agree to help the dragons and become bonded with them. They must travel to the dragon world and stop the Dragon of Death from being freed and bringing destruction to the world.

Dragon Mountain is an action-packed adventure, filled with magic, superpowers and dragons. It’s a fantastical start to a series that had me hooked and needing to know what would happen next. It ends on a real cliff-hanger that made me so thankful that we only have to wait until March next year for the next instalment. Like the bond between the kids and their dragons you feel connected to the characters and are right there beside them.

The cover (illustrated by Petur Antonsson and design by Tom Sanderson) is an absolute stunner! It screams ‘PICK ME UP!’ I love the contrasting colours of the dragons against the orangey-red background. I also love that it shows how different each of the four dragons are. I keep switching between which one I would like to be bonded with but I think it would be Buttons.

Dragon Mountain would be a great read aloud for Year 5/6 because it will keep everyone engaged and begging their teacher to keep reading. I know that this is going to be such a great series and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Avis and the Promise of Dragons by Heather McQuillan

Dragons are creatures of myth, but imagine if there was a dragon in your neighbourhood. This is exactly what Avis discovers when she takes a job as a pet-sitter for the local ‘witch.’ Heather McQuillan introduces us to Avis and Humbert the dragon in her latest book, Avis and the Promise of Dragons.

Avis is having a hard time at home and school. The school bully, Drake, is making her miserable and her dad and brother have changed since her mum left and shacked up with an ex-All Black. A ray of light appears in her life just when she needs it – Dr Malinda Childe. Avis dreams of working with animals and Dr Malinda offers her a job as her pet-sitter. These are no ordinary pets though. These pets are special and unusual and Avis makes a promise to keep them a secret. This isn’t the only promise that she will make over the course of a weekend and soon Avis finds herself bonded to mythical creature. A mythical creature that just happens to love chocolate. If Avis is to keep her promises she will need to shake her brother and father out of their funk because she is going to need their help.

Avis and the Promise of Dragons is a magical adventure that you want to gobble down, like a dragon with a block of chocolate. Heather takes a story of a family who have fallen apart and throws a mischievous dragon into the mix. There is lots packed into the story, from family issues and bullying to conservation and the impact of the media. Avis’ Dad is a broken man after Avis’ Mum walked out on her family to start a new life with ex-All Black Aaron Miller. He takes little notice of what is happening with his kids, instead wallowing in his self-pity. Avis’ brother Bruno hides away in his room constantly, eating rubbish food and just generally being unpleasant. Avis is the only one in the family who is showing any responsibility, but she is also bearing the brunt of Drake the bully’s torment. The pet-sitting job for Dr Malinda gives her something positive in her life. The dragon coming in to her life helps to mend her family too.

Heather will make you wish you had a dragon all of your own. I really liked Heather’s take on the dragon myth and how her little dragon evolved. This dragon may love chocolate but but he’s certainly not sweet. Humbert is a wild creature who could burn you if you don’t keep your promises. He needs more food than just chocolate and will gobble up a dove or twenty when he’s hungry.

I loved Avis and the Promise of Dragons. It would make a fantastic read aloud for Years 5/6 as it will have the kids hanging on every word.

Heather McQuillian has just been announced as the University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence Fellow for 2021. Congratulations Heather! I look forward to reading what you create during your time in Dunedin.

Dragon Frontier book trailer

 

The Wild West: where great possibility also brings grave danger.

Jake Polson and his family are starting a new life on the American Frontier. Twelve-year-old Jake is proud to drive the lead wagon; he’s in charge of the oxen and minding his Ma and little sister.

But tragedy strikes and Jake must venture deep into the West in search of a legendary creature to save his family. What he discovers in that vast landscape is wilder than he ever imagined.

Out on the frontier, an evil force is waiting.

Dragon Frontier by Dan Abnett is out now in NZ from Puffin Books.