A wonderfully beguiling story of a Manhattan sixth grader who finds something unusual in Central Park. Falcon's first thought when she sees the large, red egg that is almost too hot to hold is that it must be a secret. She slips it past her mother 6and hides it with a neighbor. Months ter, before a fascinated audience that includes Great-aunt Emily and Freddy, a museum ornithologist, Egg hatches--a baby dragon. Caring for a dragon is no easy task; Egg eats everything except birdseed, won't drink anything that isn't boiling, and becomes dangerously hot. Further, his wings begin to develop. Despite the usual disclaimer, these characters don't seem fictitious; from bumbling Freddy to lonely, fiercely possessive Falcon, each has a past (especially Emily, who turns out to know an amazing amount about dragons), a distinct personality, and an individual voice. Egg, too, is entirely convincing, with her tiny red scales, golden claws, and distracted air; like a lion cub or a young hawk, she seems tame when small, but is really a dangerous wild animal, and in the end, she must be released. In a grand debut, Gray deftly mixes the marvelous and the ordinary, adding touches of comedy and magic, enriching the plot with well-chosen subplots, and leaving out predictable twists and bad guys--Falcon's conflicts are almost entirely internal ones. Engaging, intelligent, and well-wrought: the best dragon story since Donn Kushner's A Book Dragon (1988).