An old-time–y fairy tale for dragon lovers; here’s hoping subsequent volumes offer more meat.

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THE STORM DRAGON

From the The Secret Rescuers series , Vol. 1

A castle maid hides an injured dragon.

When the staff clears out the deceased king’s belongings, blonde, pale-skinned orphan Sophy finds a bag of strange rocks, one of which magically gives Sophy the ability to communicate with the baby dragon that crash-lands in the orchard. But there’s not much time for Sophy to chat with storm dragon Cloudy—the ill-tempered knight Sir Fitzroy despises magical creatures, and he’s on the prowl, looking for the crashed dragon. After the knight nearly catches them (storm magic and billowing royal underpants in the laundry play a role in their getaway distraction), Sophy and Cloudy steal away to safety and find the magic plant that will heal his wing. Soon, he rejoins his dragon family, and Sophy starts to miss him—but not for long. Harrison’s series opener treads familiar territory, the third-person narration liberally dotted with exclamation marks and the dialogue positively festooned with them. The essential conflict—the adults’ dislike of magical creatures ("I've never liked magical animals. How can you trust a creature that breathes fire or sings to the stars?" the queen complains)—feels wholly plot-driven and fails to give all but the most credulous readers genuine stakes to care about. Williams’ illustrations depict the people with uniformly light skin and the dragon as adorable.

An old-time–y fairy tale for dragon lovers; here’s hoping subsequent volumes offer more meat. (Fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7608-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them.

THE MADRE DE AGUAS OF CUBA

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 5

The Unicorn Rescue Society investigates the disappearance of a Cuban sea serpent.

In the fifth series installment, returning protagonists Uchenna and Elliot are in school, learning about water, when Professor Fauna calls them away. As the kids board the professor’s rickety single-propeller plane, they learn where exactly they are heading: Cuba. The island is in the middle of a massive drought, and Professor Fauna has reason to believe that the Madres de aguas (the Mother of Waters) has gone missing. It’s up to the society to find the sea serpent before any more damage is done to the people and wildlife of Cuba. As they set out on their mission of derring-do, they realize that once again they are up against their nemeses, the Schmoke Brothers. Via Yoenis, their Cuban American society liaison, Uchenna, Elliot, and readers learn about the political and economic hardships experienced by the people of Cuba, the island’s lack of basic goods and necessities, and Cuba’s need for real democracy (although the current role of the military is elided). This is conveyed within a quick, fast-paced read that’s ideal for kids who want a straightforward magical adventure. Uchenna is Nigerian, Elliot is white and Jewish, and Professor Fauna is Peruvian.

Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3142-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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