Books: The Last Dragons Chronicles

September 3, 2011

I’ve just finished the third book in Chris d’Lacey’s six-book series. Since my son Al is reading them also (he introduced me to them), I plan to continue reading them. But I have to admit some disappointment with the way the series has changed from the first book to the third.

The Fire Within was delightful. The idea was original (Liz Pennykettle crafts clay dragons for sale, but it seems that they are more than just clay figurines), and the characters really came to life through d’Lacey’s writing. He didn’t just tell about them or how they felt, he used dialog and action to show just what they were like.

There’s David, the college student who knows there’s something strange in the Pennykettle household, but isn’t about to believe that the dragons are real. There’s Lucy, 11 years old and impetuous, endearing, passionate (especially about the backyard squirrels), and sometimes petulant. Then there’s Liz, Lucy’s mother and David’s landlady, trying to keep the truth about the dragons hidden from David until he is ready to accept it.

The dragons are also enchanting, each with its own personality. Liz makes a dragon for David, which he names Gadzooks. It is a special writing dragon, and it gives him inspiration for a story he writes for Lucy’s birthday, by sometimes writing a word on the writing pad it carries (David sees these words when he imagines Gadzooks writing them).

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What makes dragons so popular?

August 29, 2011

Friday evening, as we settled into our motel room after taking our older son back to college, our younger son asked me something that I had been wondering about myself. Why are dragons so popular?

He had brought home a “free reading” book from school (they are required to read three books during the term, though I’m sure Al will read far more than that), and I started reading it after I realized that it was about dragons. As soon as I finished it, I got the sequel from the public library, which we both read during the trip to Michigan. (He read while I drove, I read it in the motel.) Now we’re taking turns reading the third book.

I can’t remember the first book I ever read about dragons, but I remember getting a book on the “natural history” of dragons back when I was a young adult. I loved the idea of a book that tried to examine dragons in the same way a non-fiction book would examine any other animal – its physiology, mating habits, habitat, history, etc. Some of my favorite novels that deal with dragons are Anne McCaffrey’s books about the dragons of Pern, and the Dragon Knight books by Gordon R. Dickson.

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Movies: How to Train Your Dragon

July 6, 2010

I have enjoyed planning my son’s birthday parties the past four years, but the fun was always in the planning itself, not in the actual parties. It’s harder to come up with good party ideas for 11-year-olds than younger children, so this year I suggested an alternative.

Rather than inviting twenty children and having two or three show up, we would invite the one friend who always came. I would take them to the Putnam museum, including a movie at the IMAX theater. When I learned that How to Train Your Dragon would be showing this month, that clinched it for us.

As we don’t watch TV and rarely see movies in the theaters, I hadn’t seen a preview of the movie. Or, to be more precise, I had seen a preview of the movie, online, but as I generally keep the volume muted on my computer, I hadn’t heard the preview.

I knew the film was based on the book with the same title, so I read a description of the book. The images I had seen in the preview fit well enough with what I expected from reading about the book. So I thought I knew what movie I was going to see – about a boy finding a dragon to train, and his struggles with training it and proving himself.

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