SOONIE AND THE DRAGON by Shirley Rousseau Murphy


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Once upon a time the live-wire protagonist--who hoodwinks a dragon, saves her soul from the fairy king, and finds herself a proper mate--would have been a manly youth; and once upon a time beautiful, 16-year-old Soonie (""with skin like peaches and hair like autumn leaves"") would have been called a girl, not a ""young woman."" But otherwise this is a standard folklore retread--in three patterned episodes, with appropriately cadenced prose and very little inspiration. The first has Soonie--who can sing and dance and tell stories--rescuing three princesses with a single talent each by performing for a dragon in their place(s). And, because this is a feminist fairy tale, each of the princesses then discards her suitor for being less courageous than Soonie. The second episode pits Soonie against the come-hither fairy king in a chess game (""a man's game,"" he said scoffingly) that she wins by spotting the pieces as pixies--and buttering their bottoms so they can't move about undetected. The last has an ingratiating wrinkle too--in the form of a woeful five-headed griffin whose lonesome wailing terrifies everyone but Soonie and her fittingly fearless love. Murphy makes Soonie a pleasantly girlish savior with a sense of humor besides (""Now for goodness sakes stop crying,"" she says to the griffin, ""and lay your heads in my lap. . .""). But the illustrations are awful--ineptly drawn and flavorless. So it's all a question, then, of how desirable Soonie seems as an '80s role model.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum