A Tuesday Ten: Here Be Dragons
Dragons are everywhere in fantasy fiction. They are a classic creature that often runs the danger of becoming a cliche. Fortunately there are plenty of good writers who have taken the subject of dragons in hand over the years. From funny to frightening, from the epic to the mundane, here are ten tales of these legendary critters!
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (HMH, 1990)
A delightfully subversive story that takes the tropes of fairy tales and turns them on their ear. Cimorene is a stubborn princess who is frustrated at every turn by her parents when none of her interests turn out to be “proper”. And when her parents decide to marry her off to a prince she can’t stand, she decides to run away and become a dragon’s princess. This anything but typical princess and her anything but conventional dragon are about to get into quite a few hilarious adventures. The first book of four in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The other three are: Searching for Dragons (1991), Calling on Dragons(1992), and Talking To Dragons (1993)
Dragon’s Milk by Susan Fletcher (Atheneum, 1989(
Kaeldra must somehow get some precious dragon milk to save her sister. But her quest to get the milk will wind up entangling her in the lives of the three young dragons and one would-be dragon slayer. The first of three book s in the Dragon Chronicles Flight of the Dragon Kyn (1993), and Sign Of The Dove (1996) are the other two titles. In this world, most of humankind is set against dragons, and our protagonists must fight for them.
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury, 2007)
Everyone’s heard of sacrificing a maiden to appease a dragon, but when Creel’s aunt actually conspires to do so, it’s Creel’s clever tongue that gets her out of the dragon’s clutches and onto the road to seek her fortune with a pair of very special shoes. The first book in a well written trilogy, this story of kings, princes, seamstresses and dragons is charming and adventurous. The other two books in the series are Dragon Flight (2008), and Dragon Spear (2009).
Dragon of the Lost Sea by Laurence Yep (HarperCollins, 1982)
One of the rare dragon books for middle graders that actually tackles Chineses mythology and dragon lore. (If you know of others please let me know in the comments!) A dragon princess and her young human ally are out to capture an evil enchantress. Epic adventure awaits! This is the first book in a four part series that also includes Dragon Steel (1985), Dragon Cauldron (1991), Dragon War (1992)
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (Bantam, 1976)
My science fiction addition to the list. Anne McCaffrey’s dragons and fire lizards may feel like fantasy, but the setting is actually science fiction! Menolly just wants to play and compose music, but girls on Pern can’t be Harpers. When she runs away, she finds herself in charge of a whole fair of fire lizards, and gaining the attention of the famed Dragonriders of Pern themselves! There are two more books in the Harper Hall series: Dragonsinger (1977), Dragondrums (1979) but there are quite a number of Pern books that McCaffrey wrote for an adult audience as well.
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville (HMH, 1991)
The second title in the Magic Shop book series, this is a stand alone story about a boy struggling with bullies and girls and all sorts of mundane problems. When he encounters the magic shop one day, he winds up going home with a mysterious dragon egg–and it’s about to hatch. Jeremy is going to have to care for the new young dragon until it is old enough to cross the border. A contemporary fantasy story that many young readers will relate to.
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell (HarperCollins, 2013)
Epic fantasy in a psuedo-medieval setting. Tilda has spent much of her life attending to the duties and responsibilities of a princess in her small kingdom. But when a nefarious plot gives her the opportunity, Tilda goes on the run with two of her friends who want to be dragon slayers. It’s a wild adventure full of treachery, magic and dragons. A great new story by Merrie Haskell this year!
The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland (Scholastic, 2012)
It’s actually fairly rare to find fantasy that’s told from the dragon’s perspective. Even less likely to find stories where the human involvement in the story is mostly as squeaky foodstuffs. Rather than human-dragon relationships, the Wings of Fire series is about dragon societies and the prophecy that has defined the lives of several young dragonets from differing tribes of dragons. When the young dragonets flee the safe haven that has been the only home they’ve ever known, they try to seek out their origins and figure out what the prophecy has in store for them.
Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews (Scholastic, 2013)
Strangely enough, it’s unusual to encounter many evil dragons in middle grade stories. At least as far as intelligent monsters go. Dragon Run places readers in a pseudo-medieval dystopia where people are ruled by powerful dragons. Every individual is given a power number that will define what their station will be in life and what kind of work they’ll do. But at Al’s testing, he turns out to be a zero . . . and that’s a dangerous thing to be! Rather than wait around to be culled, Al escapes and rapidly discovers the truth about the dragon overlords.
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (Random House, 1948)
Could I really leave this classic off of the list? Quite possibly the only dragon book I know of without a dragon on the cover. This charming young reader won a Newbery Honor in 1949. Elmer Elevator hears about the plight of a baby dragon and decides to stow away and rescue the youngster. Gentle adventure that has won over adults and kids for generations. There are two other books in the series: Elmer and the Dragon (1950), and The Dragons of Blueland (1951).
I’m fully aware that there are plenty more dragon stories out there–what are some of your favorites? Please comment?