In McCandless’ (The Krottkey Chronicles, 2013) novella, a young Texas girl of today must fight a terrifying dragon.
Since she witnessed the death of her father two years ago in a freak accident, 12-year-old Beatrice McIlvaine has been the glue that holds her family together. Now, besides juggling cooking, laundry, and school, Beatrice becomes aware that her dreams of a dragon are not just dreams, but warnings. Fortunately, Mrs. Knowles, a mysterious substitute teacher at Beatrice’s school, knows all about the basilisk, and she’s able to supply Beatrice with whatever weapons she wants to fight the creature. Astride the legendary winged horse Pegasus and armed with King Arthur’s magical sword, Excalibur, Beatrice ascends into the night sky to fight the fearsome beast. Though ostensibly about fighting a dragon, this brief, multilayered novella also depicts the power of perseverance, the strength of family, and a young person’s ability to believe in magic even after witnessing a horrible life experience. Beatrice and her younger brother, Frank, who is constantly searching for buried pirate treasure, represent the hope that wondrous things can happen in life, a notion that adults—as represented by their mother, Anne, who works a backbreaking schedule just to keep the family afloat—have long since abandoned. Beatrice, on the other hand, simply accepts that the dragon is real and implicitly trusts Mrs. Knowles, who somehow knows all about the monster. McCandless is a descriptive writer: “The soul eater lived on an island deep in the southern seas, where red fruit rotted on sagging branches and night drew a curtain of bats across the sky. The rusty frame of an old prop plane—a Lockheed electra 10E, from the looks of it—lay like a broken crucifix in the forest on the island’s north side.” Unfortunately, the story ends just as it draws readers in—perhaps not a bad thing when battling a basilisk.
This brief but powerful dragon story soars.