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Whether fierce or fans of marshmallows, there are dragons of all kinds waiting to be discovered in these middle-grade novels.
The Dragon in the Sock Drawer. By Kate Klimo. Illus. by John Shroades. 2008. Random, paper, $6.29 ( 9780375855887). Gr. 4–6.In this first title in the Dragon Keepers series, Jesse and his cousin Daisy embark on a magical adventure when a geode unexpectedly explodes and reveals a baby dragon, which they must care for while keeping its existence a secret.
The Dragon of Trelian. By Michelle Knudsen. 2009. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763634551). Gr. 4–7.When magician’s apprentice Calen and young princess Meglynne meet accidentally, Calen helps Meg with the baby dragon she has been secretly tending. Together, they discover a deadly plot that they must stop using their wits, Calen’s magic, and Meg’s half-grown dragon.
Dragon Rider. By Cornelia Funke. 2004. Scholastic/Chicken House, paper, $9.45 (9780545316484). Gr. 4–6.Funke’s modern fantasy classic appeals directly to children’s imaginations with its silver dragon that absorbs moonlight as flight fuel, an orphan boy destined to become a Dragon Rider, a journey to the Himalayas, a vengeful foe, and plenty of humor.
Dragon Slippers. By Jessica Day George. 2007. Bloomsbury, paper, $8.99 (9781599902753). Gr. 6–9.Creel’s aunt plans to end the family’s poverty by foisting her orphaned niece on the local dragon, hoping that the knight who comes to Creel’s aid will want to marry the rescued maiden (and share his riches with her relatives). What they don’t count on is Creel befriending her dragon “captor.”
Dragonbreath. By Ursula Vernon. Illus. by the author. 2009. Dial, $12.99 (9780803733633). Gr. 3–5.Young dragon Danny Dragonbreath has a problem: he can’t yet breathe fire. While he and his best friend are on an undersea tour, a giant-squid attack finally gives Danny the motivation he needs tap into his inner flame. The first in a fun, illustrated adventure series.
The Dragonet Prophecy. By Tui T. Sutherland. 2012. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780545349185). Gr. 4–7.One stormy night on an island of warring dragon tribes, five eggs from five separate tribes are stolen from their nests. The eggs hatch in a secret location, and the dragonets are raised to fulfill a destiny they neither understand nor wish to face. This dramatic start to the Wings of Fire series will have broad appeal for middle-grade fantasy fans.
Dragons and Marshmallows. By Asia Citro. Illus. by Marion Lindsay. 2017. The Innovation Press, $16.99 (9781943147083). Gr. 1–3.Magical creatures are invisible to most humans, but not to Zoey, a bright African American girl, or her scientist mom. When a sickly baby dragon appears in her family’s barn, Zoey and her cat, Sassafras, use the scientific method and research about reptiles to nurse the dragon back to health.
Dragons Beware! By Jorge Aguirre. Illus. by Rafael Rosado. 2015. First Second, paper, $14.99 (9781596438781). Gr. 2–5.Mont Petite Pierre is under siege by ghastly gargoyles, but the indefatigable Claudette and her motley crew leap into action to save their town by reclaiming Claudette’s father’s magic sword from where he lost it: inside the stomach of a terrifying dragon. A retro-style graphic novel packed with freewheeling adventure.
Dragon’s Egg. By Sarah L. Thomson. 2007. Greenwillow, $16.99 (9780061288487). Gr. 3–6.Twelve-year-old Mella cares for domestic “common dragons” in her kingdom, but when a dying “true dragon” tasks her with delivering a dragon’s egg safely to the Dragontooth Mountains, Mella and a young squire embark on a lively quest reminiscent of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.
A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans. By Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder. Illus. by Mary GrandPré. 2015. Crown, $15.99 (9780385392280). Gr. 3–5.In droll counterpoint to the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, Miss Drake (a 3,000-year-old dragon) takes Winifred (a 10-year-old human) under her wing. Despite their differences, the two make a good team, as they narrowly avert major disaster to the city and its magical community.
Dragonsdale. By Salamanda Drake. Illus. by Gilly Marklew. 2007. Scholastic/Chicken House, o.p. Gr. 3–6.Set in a magical land where dragons and their (mostly female) riders train to compete in equestrian-style tournaments, this novel will delight kids who find tame dragons captivating. The story centers on Caroline, who lives and works among dragons but is forbidden to ride.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon. By Kelly Barnhill. 2016. Algonquin, $17.95 (9781616205676). Gr. 5–8.In this Newbery-winning fantasy, a witch raises Luna, a baby gifted with magic, with the help of a swamp monster and a tiny dragon. As Luna’s powers grow, she must face untold challenges.
The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice. By Andrew S. Chilton. Illus. by Jensine Eckwall. 2016. Knopf, $16.99 (9780553520705). Gr. 3–5.An enslaved boy who escapes, a princess, and a common (but clever) girl find their fates intertwined when a dragon captures both girls. The boy sets out to rescue them and discover his own heritage in this tongue-in-cheek adventure, complete with a sympathetic dragon and humorous caricatures of nobility.
The Hobbit. By J. R. R. Tolkien. 1937. HMH, $25. (9780618968633). Gr. 6–12.The adventures of Bilbo Baggins contain one dragon to rule them all: Smog. This classic never goes out of style, and middle-schoolers have been joining the young hobbit on his journey for decades. Interested readers not quite up for the full text might try the graphic novel adaptation, illustrated by David Wenzel (The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again, 1990).
How to Train Your Dragon: by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. By Cressida Cowell. 2004. Little, Brown, $8.99 (9780316085274). Gr. 4–8. An obvious but crucial entry to any dragon-themed list, this marks nerdy Hiccup’s inauspicious attempt at becoming his tribe’s next Warrior Chief. Gross is the word for this wildly enjoyable comic fantasy that covers old heroic Norse battle myths in slime and snot, while pitting its characters against dragons.
The Language of Spells. By Garret Weyr. Illus. by Katie Harnett. 2018. Chronicle, $16.99 (9781452159584). Gr. 4–7.The friendship between a centuries-old dragon and an 11-year-old girl unravels an ancient mystery in this graceful, fairy-tale-like story. Together, they seek out Austria’s missing dragons and learn important lessons about love and magic.
The Last Dragon. By Silvana De Mari. Tr. by Shaun Whiteside. 2006. Hyperion/Miramax, o.p. Gr. 5–8.Yorsh, a little elf, is alone in a world beset by intolerance—especially toward elves. On his travels, he reads his destiny engraved on a wall: “When the last dragon and the last elf” come together, they will save the world. And so begins his quest for the last dragon.
Princess Pulverizer: Grilled Cheese and Dragons. By Nancy Krulik. Illus. by Ben Balistreri. 2018. Penguin Workshop, $15.99 (9780515158328). Gr. 2–4.After being sent home from the School of Ladylike Manners again, Princess Pulverizer finally convinces her father to let her train to be a knight. As she endeavors to complete a Quest of Kindness, she is thrown into the company of a runaway knight-in-training and Dribble, a kind dragon who loves to cook.
Rise of the Dragons. By Angie Sage. 2019. Scholastic, $14.99 (9780545864961). Gr. 4–6.This story is split between two worlds: one with dragons, and one where they have long been forgotten. Siblings Joss and Allie unexpectedly have a chance at freedom when they discover a rare silver dragon egg. Their dark, gritty world balances a modern one, where Sirin clings to the dragon-filled stories told by her ailing mother.
Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races. By K. D. Halbrook. June 2019. Holt, $16.99 (9781250181077). Gr. 4–7.Thirteen-year-old Silver Batal dreams of being a water dragon racer, an unlikely ambition for a girl from a small village deep in the desert. Events conspire to send her on a high-stakes mission to the royal city, where Silver is to rescue a stolen baby water dragon, previously believed to be mythical.
Spark. By Sarah Beth Durst. May 2019. Clarion, $17.99 (9781328973429). Gr. 4–7.Mina and her dragonesque lightning beast, Pixit, are off to Mytris Lightning School so that Mina can learn how to control this powerful weather element (and Pixit). When blown off course during a practice storm, Mina makes a life-altering discovery.
A Tale of Two Castles. By Gail Carson Levine. 2011. Harper, $16.99 (9780061229657). Gr. 4–6.After traveling to the town of Two Castles and failing to secure an apprenticeship in an acting company, 12-year-old Elodie is employed by the local dragon, who challenges her to develop her powers of observation and deduction.
The Tea Dragon Society. By Katie O’Neill. Illus. by the author. 2017. Oni, $17.99 (9781620104415). Gr. 3–6.This delightful, quiet tale, which began its existence as a webcomic, follows Greta, a blacksmith’s apprentice, who rescues a tea dragon and is invited to learn more about the magical creature by its owner, Hesekiel. The back of the book includes an excerpt from the fictional Tea Dragons Handbook, which introduces a few other kinds of dragons not included in the original story. A gentle fantasy perfect for introducing young readers to graphic novels.
Thomas and the Dragon Queen. By Shutta Crum. Illus. by Lee Wildish. 2010. Knopf, $15.99 (9780375857034). Gr. 3–5.A chance encounter brings Thomas’ dreams of knighthood to fruition, ultimately landing him with the quest of rescuing Princess Eleanor from a dragon. He shows courage and resourcefulness during his difficult journey; though, in the dragon’s lair, he discovers that nothing is what he expected.
The Unicorn Rescue Society #2: The Basque Dragon. By Adam Gidwitz and Jesse Casey. Illus. by Hatem Aly. 2018. Dutton, $14.99 (9780735231733). Gr. 2–5.Barely returned from their first mission, the Unicorn Rescue Society’s newest recruits, Elliot and Uchenna, are called upon to find a missing herensuge (dragon) in the Basque Country of Spain. Professor Fauna whisks them off in his battered plane, for a breathless tale of dragon-napping peppered with facts about the Basque Country and herensuge mythology.
The Wearle. By Chris d’Lacey. 2017. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780545900188). Gr. 4–8.In this series opener, d’Lacey presents high fantasy with dragons as main characters, developing parallel stories about younger members of society (Ren and a dragon named Gabrial) who are committed to peace and forgiveness but have little standing in their respective tribes. A story rich in betrayal and adventure.
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