Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle, illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Apparently, dragons don’t exist.
Apparently, dragons are all in my imagination.
That’s what Nina Willis said, anyway, on the Monday before the Monday before last.

When a new kid named Nina arrives at school, Georgia soon learns that Nina doesn’t believe in dragons. Which makes Georgia sad, and a little bit cross, because her friend, Trouble is a dragon. Worse, though, when Trouble finds out someone doesn’t believe in him, he starts to change. Georgia needs to find a way to get Nina to believe.

Trouble and the New Kid is the third story featuring trouble and Georgia, but sits well on its own for those new to the series. Georgia is a wonderful heroine, warm hearted, but often in trouble at school. Trouble, too, is fun and the concept behind the series is wonderful.

Illustrated with greay scale illustrations by the whimsical Stephen Michael King, Trouble and the New Kid  will appeal to junior primary aged readers and anyone who loves whimsy.

Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle
Omnibus, 2017
ISBN 9781742990781

review by Sally Murphy, children’s author, reviewer and poet

Keeper of the Crystals 5: Eve and the Griffin’s Gold by Jess Black

Eve was not good at waiting.
She stood with her nose pressed against the cold glass while balancing on tiptoe on the arm of the couch. From this height she could see all the way to the corner of Stewart Street. Eve knew that this was the way her grandmother, Sylvie, would walk from the bus stop when she arrived.

Eve and her dragon, Ingvar, are waiting for Sylvie and Oscar to arrive. Sylvie is Eve’s grandmother and Oscar her friend. They’re staying with Eve while her parents are out of town. Eve, Sylvie and Oscar have had many adventures ‘and travelled to many worlds’. Eve’s not expecting any adventure or danger this visit, but she’s always prepared. Just as well, as adventure seems to find her. This time, there’s a visit from an old enemy and a griffin who needs their help in Dracburn, where one-eyed men are stealing the lining from griffin nests. While her grandmother deals with the old enemy, Eve, Ingvar and Oscar are off on a new quest.

What young girl wouldn’t want a dragon as a companion? And the ability to help other creatures in magical worlds. Keeper of the Crystals: Eve and the Griffin’s Gold is Book 5 in this series from New Frontier Publishing. It’s at newly competent readers wanting to be whisked away on magical adventures full of jewels and wondrous creatures. Eve is a gentle champion who works with her friends to solve mysteries and rescue those in distress. She must be brave and resourceful and overcome seemingly impassable obstacles to succeed in her missions. And she does. Then arrives home in time to spend time with her grandmother. Recommended for young readers, ready for fantastical stories.

Keeper of the Crystals 5: Eve and the Griffin’s Gold, Jess Black
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059830

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Bronze Bird Tower, by Carole Wilkinson

Kai sighed. The dragon haven had been his home since he was a dragonling, yet he showed no pleasure in returning.

“Gu Hong selected this place to be the home of the dragons,” he said. “She chose well. It is not so high that it is wintry throughout the year round. And no creatures can scale the sheer cliffs – not a goat, not a rabbit and, more importantly, not a human.”

At last Tao and Kai have arrived at the Dragon Haven. Now Kai can resume his position as leader, and Tao can take on the role of Dragonkeeper. But there is no big welcome, and Tao wonders if he and Kai will be made to leave, and once again face the murderous warlord, Jilong.

Although their welcome is luke-warm, the pair do their best to fit in, and even have moments of something nearing harmony with the dragon cluster. But when Jilong finds out where they are, it seems their peace will be shattered. Not only does Tao question his own role at the haven, but also whether dragons will ever be able to live peacefully anywhere in the world.

The sixth and final title in the Dragonkeeper series, Bronze Bird Tower is fabulous fantasy for readers of all ages. Tao and his friends are endearing, and the other dragons, with their different personalities, make for an absorbing cast. The twists and turns as the dragons find a way forward, and Tao and Kai seek to establish their roles, are both exciting and satisfying.

Wonderful.

Bronze Bird Tower, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2017

 

 

Trouble and the Missing Cat by Cate Whittle ill Stephen Michael King

It turns out that our school Principal doesn’t live in a cupboard at the end of the corridor next to the teachers/ staffroom, even though Kyle Watson and Braedon Smythe both say so, and they should know. They are always being sent to see the Principal. As for me, Georgia, I’ve never made it beyond talking to the Deputy before, and she usually comes up to the classroom.

It turns out that our school Principal doesn’t live in a cupboard at the end of the corridor next to the teachers/ staffroom, even though Kyle Watson and Braedon Smythe both say so, and they should know. They are always being sent to see the Principal. As for me, Georgia, I’ve never made it beyond talking to the Deputy before, and she usually comes up to the classroom.

Georgia travels to school on the back of Trouble, a dragon. Trouble stole their house you see, and set it in the mountains. It was far easier for Georgia to get a lift to school than to try and set their house back on its block. But Trouble has been banned from school and the alternative ‘drop-off point’ is at the spot where their old house was. When Tibbles, the cat next door vanishes, Georgia is happy to help find him. She collects clues and eventually solves the mystery. Black and white illustrations appear on most openings.

Trouble is a dragon, and just like an oversize puppy, he is enthusiastic and not really aware of his size. Georgia is full of enthusiasm too, and sometimes surprised when her attempts to help out are misinterpreted. Their adventures are great fun and will have readers giggling. Fans of Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble’s ‘Tashi’ stories will enjoy these tales. Recommended for independent readers or read-to for younger children.

Trouble and the Missing Cat, Cate Whittle ill Stephen Michael
King Scholastic 2016 ISBN: 9781742990774

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

This Hungry Dragon, by Heath McKenzie

This HUNGRY dragon
heard his tummy growl.
Someone who heard it
was a nervous little owl!

A very hungry dragon meets – and eats – a series of unfortunate animals: the owl, a fancy fox, a muddy pig, and more. But eventually he feels sick and a visit from the doctor is needed. When the doctor, too, ends up in the dragon’s belly he figures out a way to get the dragon to spit them all out. the dragon feels better – and has learnt his lesson.

This humorous rhyming picture book will have kids laughing out loud and saying ‘gross’ in equal measure, but whilst animals are eaten, there’s no blood or gore, and every one is fine at the end. The dragon, in gentle reds and pinks, with tiny wings and big round eyes looks silly rather than fierce and the looks on the various animals’ faces as they realise what is happening adds to the humour.

Lots of fun.

This Hungry Dragon, by Heath McKenzie
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760151508

The Warlock’s Child 3: The Iron Claw by Paul Collins & Sean McMullen

In the entire world there are few things that can strike fear into the heart of a king. The sight of his army retreating would be high on the list, and the royal taster clutching his stomach and collapsing would be even higher. At the very top, however, there could be nothing to rival three very angry dragons the size of warships towering over you and asking questions for which you have no answers.

Although King Lavarran II of Savaria was backed up by five thousand of the city militia and fifty of his shapecasters, he felt very exposed. He was standing on the open plain outside his palace to shield him from the forge-hot breath of the dragons – not that the palace walls would have stopped the dragons for very long.

In the entire world there are few things that can strike fear into the heart of a king. The sight of his army retreating would be high on the list, and the royal taster clutching his stomach and collapsing would be even higher. At the very top, however, there could be nothing to rival three very angry dragons the size of warships towering over you and asking questions for which you have no answers.

Although King Lavarran II of Savaria was backed up by five thousand of the city militia and fifty of his shapecasters, he felt very exposed. He was standing on the open plain outside his palace to shield him from the forge-hot breath of the dragons – not that the palace walls would have stopped the dragons for very long.

The three dragons hovering above the city are puzzled. They sense the presence of a young dragon in the city of Savaria, but there hasn’t been a dragon hatchling for 3000 years. Although they can tell when a human is lying, their questions to the king and his court don’t provide any helpful answers. But the answers do buy the humans some time. While Velza and Latsar are trying to do their own investigations, Velza’s brother, Dantar and his friend Marko are being both helped and hindered by Merikus in their quest to leave town. Dantar and Velza’s father cannot be found, although his presence and influence is felt everywhere. The race is on to discover just what the warlock, Calbaras is up to.

The Iron Claw is book three in ‘The Warlock’s Child’ six book fantasy series. Each is told from three viewpoints: the dragons; Velza, a young female warrior, and Dantar. Velza and Dantar are children of Calbaras a highly skilled but secretive warlock. Neither child seems to have much of a relationship with their father. There are twists and turns aplenty as the children (and the dragons) seek to find Calbaras and also to unravel the mystery of why the dragons seem to be protecting Dantar. Each action-filled title is short enough for younger readers, almost as if the stories are serialised, rather than stand-alone novels. Either way, readers will be looking for the next instalment. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

The Warlock’s Child 3: The Iron Claw, Paul Collins & Sean McMullen Ford St Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925000948

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Great Zoo of China, by Matthew Reilly

‘Now, I know what you are thinking,’ Hu Tang paused. ‘You are thinking that there are hundreds of zoos, why does the world need another one? Indeed, what can China do with a zoo that has not already been done before? Ladies and gentlemen…this is what we can do.’
At that moment, the speeding bullet train burst out into brilliant sunshine and CJ found herself staring at an awesome sight.

In spite of its massive population and a booming economy, China lags behind its adversary, the United States of America, in a key way: it is not the cultural ruler of the planet. China needs something to compete with the power of Disneyland, the dreamfilled destination which epitomises commercialisation and is known the world over. When it is discovered that the most famous mythical creature of them all is not in fact a myth, and is hiding deep within China, it seems that the answer is clear: a zoo unlike any other, where dragons fly free. People will come from everywhere to see them, and will leave knowing that China really is the world ruler.

CJ Cameron doesn’t know any of this. All she knows is that the Chinese government has requested that she visit its new zoo on behalf of the National Geographic. With her brother Hamish and a party of other influential journalists, she is taken to a secret destination, little knowing what it is she will see there. Soon, though, her amazement at the realisation that the zoo houses dragons, is replaced with horror as she realises the dragons are turning rogue, and that zoo officials will do anything to ensure she doesn’t escape to spread the word of this glitch in the zoo’s operations.

The Great Zoo of China is a fast-moving, often gruesome, action thriller of the kind Matthew Reilly fans have come to expect.  Moving almost as quickly as the bullet rains which appear in parts of the novel, the story unfolds over a very short space of time, but manages to include many deaths and lots of destruction, along with a feisty main character who, with some help, tackles dragons and human foe with ingenuity. If the plot sounds familiar, Reilly admits that it was inspired by his love of the novel Jurassic Park and, although he has worked to make it different, by setting it in China and by using dragons instead of dinosaurs, there are similarities which make his homage obvious. This doesn’t make the book less likely to appeal to lovers of Reilly’s work, or of action novels in general, who will enjoy the premise and the plot.

 

The Great Zoo of China, by Matthew Reilly
Macmillan, 2014
ISBN 9781743517017

Available from good bookstores and online.

 

Shadow Sister, by Carole Wilkinson

They retraced their steps, but before they had gone more than a few chang, there was a disturbance in the forest. It was the same sound that they had heard near Shenchi village – branches breaking, undergrowth being flattened, the thud of large feet. There was also an unholy screech that made Tao’s insides turn to water. Below them, the nomads had also heard the noise and were picking up their weapons. Whatever was causing this disturbance was getting closer. Tao’s instinct was to run, but Kai stopped him.
“Wait.”

Since he left the monastery to travel with Kai, Tao has tried hard to learn the skills of the dragonkeeper, but it is not easy. He has no-one to teach him what to do, and he is yet to discover his special qi power. His journey with Kai is long and complex – he has to trust Kai that they are heading in the right direction. There are also many perils – a gang of violent nomads who will stop at nothing to get what they want, a ferocious seven-headed snake-beast, and a ghost who wants to freeze Tao’s blood.

Shadow Sister is the fifth book in the stunning Dragonkeeper series, and maintains the quality of its predecessors. Wilkinson’s characters are endearing – or frightful, in the case of enemies including Fo Tu Deng and Filong – and the settings well-painted. The action is finely paced, keeping the reader engrossed from beginning to end.

As with other books in the series, Shadow Sister could be read alone, but readers who have read the other titles will be glad they have, and those who haven’t will find themselves drawn to seek them out.

Just brilliant.

 

Shadow Sister , by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2014
ISBN 9781922179579

Available from good bookstores or online.

Dragon Moon, by Carol Wilkinson

Rereleased with a beautiful new cover.

Dragon Moon (Dragonkeeper)

The following review was published on Aussiereviews in 2007, when the book was first released.

Everything was bathed in orange blight. The breeze rippled the grass. There were bushes covered with yellow blossom. The grass was speckled with purple bells and spikes of blue flowers. A stream cut its way across the plateau before it plunged over the edge and became the Serpent’s Tail. Long Gao Yuan was just as Ping had imagined.
A sorrowful sound broke the silence. It was Kai. It made Ping’s heart ache.

For more than a year Ping and Kai have sheltered at Beibai Palace, but now Ping knows they must continue their journey. Ping is the last dragon keeper, charged with the care of Kai, the last dragon. She must take Kai to safety, but where this safety lies is not yet clear. All she has is a message from Danzi, Kai’s now dead father.

Together the pair cross China, searching for the haven Danzi has instructed them to find. Along the way they encounter old friends, and many perils, but gradually Ping unravels the clues Danzi has given,. When they reach the dragon haven, Kai will be safe and there might even be other dragons to help raise him. Or are they in for more heartbreak?

Dragon Moon is the brilliant third and final instalment in the Dragonkeeper trilogy, by award winning author Carole Wilkinson. This superb fantasy offering will have readers from ten to adult enthralled, turning pages eagerly to keep up with Ping and Kai’s journey. The ancient Chinese setting and the wonderful rendering of the dragon characters carries the reader into the fantasy world that Wilkinson has created, suspending disbelief with ease.

The only negative about this book is that it marks the end of such an awe-inspiring trilogy.

Dragon Moon, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2007, and new edition 2012

This new edition is available in good bookstores and online from Fishpond.

Garden of the Purple Dragon, by Carole Wilkinson

Ping ran back through the pine trees, her heart pounding. Kai wasn’t sitting at the mouth of the cave where she’d left him. He looked around, but the fog was like a blindfold. She called his name and ran into the cave. The little dragon was digging up the bed, scattering pine needles everywhere. Ping rushed to him…
“We’re going to find somewhere else to live,” she said, trying to sound calm.

Ping thinks she has found a safe hiding spot to bring up Kai, the baby dragon whose care has been entrusted to her. But her peace is disturbed when she realises someone has found her. She must do everything she can to protect Kai, the last dragon, but who can she trust?

Garden of the Purple Dragon is the second title in the Dragonkeeper series, picking up soon after the first left off. Ping was once a slave girl who didn’t even know her own name, until she discovered that she could communicate with dragons and that she was, in fact, heir to the position of Imperial Dragonkeeper. Now she is on the run with baby Kai, the last of the Imperial dragons, keeping him safe from those who would use him for evil – even if it kills him.

First published in 2005, Garden of the Purple Dragon has been republished, along with other books in the series, with stunning new covers and the same wonderful tale which readers will love to revisit or to discover for the first time. And, of course, on finishing it, they’ll be looking for number three in the series to see what happens next.

Garden of the Purple Dragon (Dragonkeeper)

Garden of the Purple Dragon , by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, first published 2005, this edition 2012
ISBN 9781742032467

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.