GRUFFEN

THE DRAGONS OF WAYWARD CRESCENT

Nine-year-old Lucy Pennykettle’s new guard dragon, Gruffen, discovers that the terrifying monster in her bedroom is really the shadow of a small bat in need of a better home. D’Lacey has brought back Lucy and Liz from The Fire Within (2005) and its sequels for this first of a new series aimed at much younger readers. Ceramic artist Elizabeth Pennykettle makes dragon sculptures; some, she brings to life. Created with a book in his paws, young Gruffen’s efforts to learn about his world through reading and exploration provide most of the narrative arc. This short chapter book has a series of conflicts that include Lucy’s night fears, a neighbor’s determination to get rid of the bats and the need to keep the dragon secret, but unfortunately adults resolve them all. The idea of a small guard dragon is undeniably appealing, but Stower’s inferior illustrations, the flat characters, shifting story line and the too-obvious message make this a disappointment. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-545-16815-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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ATTACK OF THE SHARK-HEADED ZOMBIE

Aimed straight at proto-Goosebumps fans, this formulaic series opener pits two 9-year-olds against a great white shark with legs. Having lost his bike in a lake thanks to the latest hare-brained scheme of his impulsive cousin Henry, bookish Keats reluctantly agrees to finance a replacement by earning some money taking on odd jobs at a spooky local mansion. The prosaic task of weeding the garden quickly turns into an extended flight through a series of magical rooms after a shark monster rises out of the ground and gives chase. Dashing from one narrow squeak to the next, the lads encounter a kitchen with an invisible "sink," a giant vomiting bookworm in the library, a carpet pattern in the hall that (literally) bites and, most usefully, a magic wand that they get to keep (setting up future episodes) after spelling the monster away. Tilted points of view give the occasional illustrations more energy than the labored plot ever musters, and the characters rarely show even two dimensions. Fledgling readers will do better in the hands of Jim Benton’s Franny K. Stein series or Bruce and Katherine Coville’s Moongobble and Me books. (Horror. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86675-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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