Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Top 5 dragons

List by Annie

"People have freaked out when I tell them that my dragons are scientifically based...what else can you call a genetically engineered life form?"
- Anne McCaffrey

For centuries dragons have held our imaginations – whether as destroyers or protectors.

For that reason, there are so many dragon stories out there, it’s really hard to pick just a few… so I haven’t picked a top 5, more a selection sorted by age / reading level, with a few honourable mentions.

As a young teen, my reading-teeth were cut, as it were, on Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels. (Don’t get me started on the whole fantasy / science-fiction argument with these. Yes, they are dragons. But...they are dragons, genetically modified by humans who have travelled to their planet on space ships.)

Even before this intro, one of my fav books, and a comfort re-read, was Green Smoke by Rosemary Manning. (It nearly made the final list, but we have so few copies around, I didn’t think it was fair.)

Knowing my mother (she who introduced me to McCaffrey in the first place), if there had been any dragon picture books around, I would have had those, too.

Working from younger to older – with the understanding that anyone from that age and up should read it. Picture books should be enjoyed by all. As I pulled the list together, I realised that I’d managed to pick humorous stories. That’s the way it goes sometimes… so slightly more serious books became honourable mentions.

Dragon actually / G.A. Aiken
A warrior princess finds herself torn between her fierce desire for an arrogant king and her intense feelings for a powerful dragon.

Annie’s comments: Hah. Managed to fit in a paranormal romance. Well, that’s not too hard – there are dragon shapeshifters all over the place. I like this series because of the humour – and the blood and gore. They ARE dragons, duh. And she is Annwyl the BLOODY. Oh, and I like revisiting families in series, seeing how their relationships go and grow. When I grow up, I want to be Dagmar

Dealing with dragons / by Patricia C. Wrede
Bored with traditional palace life, a princess goes off to live with a group of dragons and soon becomes involved with fighting against some disreputable wizards who want to steal away the dragons' kingdom.

Annie’s comments: Cimorene is one of my all-time favourite fantasy heroines. The dragon, Kazul, is a very, very close second. Cimorene’s solution to tradition is traditional, twisted sideways. And the other three books in the series continue the fun. Solid background of fairytales a must.

Honourable mentions:
  • Dragonhaven / Robin McKinley - I *heart* Robin McKinley (which won’t come as a shock from a previous list from me), and this didn’t disappoint. I want to go to Smokehill on holiday. Maybe they need a librarian...?
  • Voices of dragons / Carrie Vaughn - Shock. Horror. Friendship between human and dragon! I love the fact they are both rebels, misfits, who find commonality although their species are at war (well, sorta).

    The discovery of dragons : new research revealed / by Graeme Base (a.k.a. Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc.)
    A Victorian scientist, R.W. Greasebeam, presents the "original" correspondence of early explorers who encountered some of the world's most fearsome dragons. Base's fans will be delighted by his humorous stories and intricate renderings of these colourful creatures.

    Annie’s comments: dragons treated as a scientific reality. Great fun, and amazing illustrations. FYI: My cousin has the Mongolian Screamer tattooed on his ribs.

    Dragon boy / Dick King-Smith ; illustrated by Jocelyn Wild
    John, a young boy growing up in the day of knights and outlaws, is adopted by a dragon, Montagu Bunsen Burner.

    Annie’s comments: you need to have knowledge of dragon literature – and Robin Hood – to fully appreciate the side comments. A wonderful tale of family, with a deft, light, tone.

    Argus / Michelle Knudsen; illustrated by Andréa Wesson
    Sallie's class is supposed to be raising chicks as a science project, but although Argus, the large, green, scaly creature that hatches from her egg, causes all sorts of trouble she worries about him when he disappears.

    Annie’s comments: this brand-spanking-new book managed to kick out older titles because it is so cute and funny. The humour comes from the contradiction between text and image.

    Honourable mentions:
  • Arthur and the dragon / Pauline Cartwright; illustrated by David Elliot - Glorious illustrations, with a homely tale.
  • Dragon of an ordinary family / Margaret Mahy illustrated by Helen Oxenbury - Fun and chaotic.
  • If I had a dragon / by Tom and Amanda Ellery - Wish fulfilment – wouldn’t you rather have a dragon to play with than a little brother?
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