It's been far too long since I returned to the cave. However, I am happy to say I return to the cave with a new diploma to hang on the wall and a mortar board (slightly rumpled) and tassle (slightly singed) to go along with it. I will say that whoever designed the mortar board and tassel simply did not take dragon anatomy into consideration (though my human counterparts at graduation were not faring much better). Those mortar boards were wobbling to and fro and tassels were being spat out regularly whenever anyone turned their head and opened their mouth at the same time. At least I had the option, unintended though it might have been, to singe the dratted tassel--just one small snort of flame and poof--no more tassel to irritate the nostrils. Ahem. I digress.
What I actually wanted to make note of was a couple of "new" (to me at least) picture books featuring one of my favorite topics: dragons. Of course, looking at the dates on these, you'll realize that "new to me" doesn't necessarily correspond with currency of publication date, but that's neither here nor there--well, it's actually more a then not now. . . .
The Dragon Snatcher by M. P. Robertson. Published by The Penguin Group's Dial Books for Young Readers in 2005, this beautifully illustrated book features a young boy named George who, unlike at least one of his predecessors, is out to save dragons--not slay them. Hearing a noise in the chicken coop one night, George investigates to find a worried dragon who whisks him off to a cold, bleak castle. Inside the castle George finds shelf after shelf on neatly labeled dragon eggs--and overhears an old wizard whose plan is to "rid the land of these cursed creatures" once he finds just one more egg. Does George stop the wizard from stealing the last dragon egg? Can anything melt the wizards ice-cold heart? Read and see. (K-3rd grade)
The Dragon Machine by Helen Ward, illustrated by Wayne Anderson. Published by Dutton Children's books in 2003, this is a very different story about a boy who always went ignored and overlooked, just like the dragons he starts to notice. Dragons are everywhere, but noone ever seems to notice them, just like they never seem to notice George--until they start to become troublesome. Needing some advice, George goes to his local library, where he learns, much too late, that one should never feed the dragons or let them into our home. But the book also offers hope that these dragons might not end up captured--if only he can show them the way to their own home--the place where they belonged. And so, George builds the dragon machine. Part of the fun of this story is discovering the dragons along with George--at first glance, the unobservant reader might just miss seeing these heretofore unnoticed creatures. Are the dragons discovered and captured? Do the dragons follow George as he attempts to take them to the safety of their own home? Does George ever get noticed? Read this whimsically illustrated story and see. (K-4th grade)