Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects hoarding all our attention, and recommend some books that we think are straight fire.
This past weekend, HBO premiered House of the Dragon, the prequel series to their popular Game of Thrones show, based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. Viewers were keen to return to Westeros and learn about how the House of Targaryen fell – so keen, in fact, that streaming services HBO Max and Crave (in Canada) reportedly crashed for many users.
What better time to recommend some books for children and teens about dragons – books that are too hot, they’d make a dragon want to retire (from appearing in dragon-related books, I assume)? So, let’s not drag on any further (get it?) and jump into this week’s fiery recommendations.
What we’re looking for is books with dragons in them, so there’s no better way to start our picture book recommendations than with There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott. But not just any dragon – a cute baby dragon that hatches in your book (as if it were Drogo’s funeral pyre) and young readers must stamp, blow, and flap their arms to save the book from bursting into flame when this baby dragon sneezes!
One thing you don’t see a lot of in Game of Thrones is something you see a lot of in this book: underwear. Attack of the Underwear Dragon, written by Scott Rothman and Pete Oswald, follows Cole, the brave assistant to the great knight Sir Percival, who must face a terrifying Underwear Dragon on his own. The sequel, Return of the Underwear Dragon, reveals Cole and the Dragon’s conflict in the first book resulted from – spoiler alert – the Dragon’s inability to read signs. So this book chronicles young Cole’s attempt to teach his scaly friend to read – even resorting to alphabet-themed undies.
Okay, so the “dragons” in Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor aren’t the kind that fly and breathe fire. But this book by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Scala is about a pioneering female scientist who loved reptiles – especially komodo dragons. Procter became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum, designed the Reptile House at the London Zoo, and hosted children’s tea parties with her komodo dragon as a guest of honor (!).
Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham is sort of a modern twist on the “Puff the Magic Dragon” song, as it tells of the friendship of small, shy Ellie, and the newborn dragon she finds at the grocery store, Scratch, who may or may not be real.
Though it could have been written by a Targaryen, How to Light Your Dragon is actually written by Fred Benaglia and Didier Levy, and hilariously walks readers through the steps to help a dragon rediscover its fire-breathing abilities. While there are certain handy tricks (surprising your dragon with a cake and unlit birthday candles), readers learn the key is loving your dragon unconditionally.
And though a dragon is just one of the mythical creatures our heroine considers for a pet in Vikki VanSickle and Cale Atkinson’s If I Had a Gryphon – among unicorns, manticores, and, yes, gryphons – it’s among the ones that cause the most property damage, as it comically torches our poor pet lover’s house with a sneeze.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
When you hear “dragon,” you probably think of castles and knights in shining armor. Well, throw that out the window (like it were Bran Stark), because you need to read Canadian Zetta Elliott’s Dragons in a Bag series. The acclaimed middle-grade series takes place in modern-day Brooklyn, where young Jaxon and friends Kenny, Kavita and Vikram help his mother’s Ma deliver some baby dragons to a magical world where they’ll be safe. Book Two, The Dragon Thief, outlines what happens when Kavita steals a dragon’s egg. And The Witch’s Apprentice shows Jax learning a little magic for himself!
The Dragon Storm series, written by Alistair Chisholm and illustrated by Eric Deschamps, is a series of books, each about a youth brought to a secret league of dragonseers, The Guild, where they train to bond with their dragons and summon their power. Whether it’s Tom and Ironskin, Cara and Silverthief, or Ellis and Pathseeker – each kid and their dragon have a rousing adventure story to tell.
A Dragon Used to Live Here, or so the story goes by Annette LeBlanc Cate – or rather, that’s the story that Meg, a cranky scribe in the castle basement, tells to restless noble children Thomas and Emily. Meg tells them fantastical and funny stories of their mother’s (and the castle’s) past that they frankly cannot believe – kidnappings, loyal elves, true love, archery practice gone amiss, and, of course, a ferocious dragon.
Rowan has had to face all sorts of monsters throughout Kelley Armstrong’s Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series: gryphons, colocolos, and dropbears. And in the fourth and final installment, The Final Trial, she, her twin brother Rhydd, friends Dain and Alianor, and an ever-growing group of monstrous companions, must protect the dragon living in their homeland and prove to all the kingdoms that people and monsters can peacefully coexist.
Likewise, The Unicorn Rescue Society, a series of books by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly, has featured rescues of everything from sasquatches to chupacabras by Elliot, Uchenna, and mentor Professor Fauna. But in Book 2: The Basque Dragon (co-authored by Jesse Casey) they must solve the kidnapping of a fire-breathing dragon in the mountains of Europe’s Basque County.
Including The Dragon Turn, the fifth case of The Boy Sherlock Holmes by Canadian author Shane Peacock, in this list is maybe unfair. But the mystery that teen Sherlock and Irene Doyle attempt to solve is connected to illusionist Alistair Hemsworth, who makes a very real and – for his rival magicians – very deadly dragon appear before audiences’ very eyes (just like those talented visual effects people at HBO).
If you’re talking YA and dragons, then you have to mention Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. (After all, don’t you have to trust a fantasy writer who has a broadsword?) First written when Paolini was just a teen himself, the books follow poor farm boy Eragon who stumbles upon a dragon egg and – as often happens in these situations – is soon swept into a world of magic, battle, and story. The latest book set in the world of Eragon is The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, three original stories that interlock with Eragon’s epic, featuring a wanderer and a cursed child, spells and magic – and dragons, obvi.
Not to be outdone in the dragon department is Vancouver’s Rachel Hartman, who first introduced readers to the kingdom of Goredd, in which dragons can take human form and coexist in an uneasy peace with humans in the New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina and its sequel, Shadow Scale. She’s since continued her explorations of social justice and feminist in the realm of Goredd with Tess of the Road and its follow-up, In the Serpent’s Wake. Both books feature Tess and her old dragon friend, as they traverse the lands and seas.
If you like your dragons with a dose of post-revolutionary action, you want Fireborne by Rosaria Munda, a book that comes highly recommended by dragon expert Rachel Hartman. In it, Annie and Lee, just children when a brutal revolution changed their world and gave a chance to potentially enter into the governing class of dragonriders. Seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet (even though Annie’s family was executed by dragonfire years ago!). And if you like those dragonriding politics, you’ll love Flamefall and Furysong, the other books in the Aurelian Cycle.
And lest you get the impression that European fantasy has the copyright on dragon stuff, we recommend Elizabeth Lim’s The Dragon’s Promise, and not just as a reminder of the importance dragons have to Asian legend. The next adventure after Six Crimson Cranes (which also famously features a dragon!) sees the sorceress Princess Shiori trying to make good on a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner. Unfortunately, that involves journeying to the kingdom of dragons, filled with almost as many dangers as the pearl itself!
Happy reading, friends!