Appealing sf in the "Springboard" series for newly independent readers. Darek, nine, can't wait to prove his manhood by killing a dragon as his older brother, Clep, has just done. But when he discovers a young dragon in the pouch of Clep's quarry, it charms him with its affection and he decides to return it to its own kind. Along the way, Darek discovers to his surprise that "Zantor" is a vegetarian; by book's end, he has unexpectedly proved his courage by dissuading the men from attacking the dragons in order to "save" him, and by suggesting that both people and dragons might benefit from cooperating instead of fighting. Beginning as an unusual-pet story, this quickly takes a didactic turn, with the mothers readier to adopt behavior that will save their sons from death-defying risk than are the tradition-bound fathers. Still, the message doesn't overwhelm. Meanwhile, Koller tells a briskly moving, satisfying story, and the dragons are nicely endearing in both the text and the b&w illustrations.