The Glimme – Emily Rodda

Illustrations – Marc McBride

‘Do you draw what you see?’

‘It is very thin here, the veil,’ she whispered, leaning forward as if she was telling a great secret. ‘Some places in the world are like that, and this is one of them.’

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Shortly after we’re introduced to Finn, a young boy who has lived in the small village of Wichant his entire life, a strange woman, only known as the Housekeeper, buys him from his grandparents for a bag of gold.

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The Housekeeper takes Finn to the mysterious Edge House on the clifftop. There Finn is shown seven exquisite paintings. These are not ordinary paintings, though. The scenes depicted on them are more realistic than Finn realises.

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Behold the Glimme, where dragons fly,

And see a wondrous tale unfold.

This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful books I will ever have the privilege of picking my jaw off the floor over. I was interested in the story but once I caught a glimpse of Marc McBride’s illustrations I was hooked. They’re an incredible blend of realistic and surreal. The attention to detail and the combination of dark and dreary with vibrant colours, often appearing in the same image, was captivating.

I almost didn’t care about the words that accompanied the story of the pictures initially and came close to allowing myself to remain hypnotised by the dragons and castles. I planned on drooling over the pictures and then sending the book back to the library unread, because of Book Nerd Problem #486: practically every book I currently want to read arrived at the library at the same time!

Then I glanced at the first couple of pages of text and the words sucked me in too. I’m not usually drawn to adventure stories where I’m spending so much of my time witnessing battles and the travelling time between them but I enjoyed this story. My favourite characters were Finn, artist turned hostage turned unexpected hero, and Lone Annie, a scarred woman who foresees the dragons, giants and other very specific encounters our intrepid adventurers face.

The illustrations lined up with the storyline so well (one of my pet peeves is when the details of an illustration are different to what the story describes) and it made sense to me when I learned that the illustrator approached the author with a set of paintings, asking them to write their story. I’m having so much trouble choosing a favourite so I’m going to show you two of them. This is Finn inside the Edge House. See all of the books? Dream house!

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The other is my favourite dragon illustration. This is Greenfire chatting to Chieftain Gor. Check out the details!

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Now, this may be a case of me seeing what I want to see but I could have sworn there was a Predator in the foreground of the painting showing the feast in Castle Nye. In this story his name is Quinlin and it’s only when he’s seen in profile that he makes me think he was a Predator in another life.

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The artist’s secret is the key

To doors no eyes but mine can see.

You would be forgiven for thinking I’ve shown you practically all of the illustrations contained in this book but I haven’t even come close. There are so many characters you have yet to be introduced to, locations you have not glimpsed and fantasy elements come of life that await you within its pages.

Although they’re gorgeous, the photos I’ve taken of the book’s pages do not do these illustrations justice at all! You’ve got to experience them for yourself!

My only regret related to this book? I waited and waited for my library copy to arrive and by the time I opened the first page and realised just how extraordinary this book truly is, I’d missed out on the opportunity to buy my own signed copy. Lesson painfully learned!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Lone Annie sees dragons in your future. She sees giants. She sees fire and water. She sees death. Finn’s life in the village of Wichant is hard. Only his drawings of the wild coastline, with its dragon shaped clouds and headlands that look like giants, make him happy. Then the strange housekeeper from a mysterious clifftop mansion sees his talent and buys him for a handful of gold and then reveals to him seven extraordinary paintings. Finn thinks the paintings must be pure fantasy: such amazing scenes and creatures cannot be real! He is wrong. Soon he is going to slip through the veil between worlds and plunge into the wonders and perils of The Glimme.

Don’t Let the Beasties Escape This Book! – Julie Berry

Illustrations – April Lee

Godfrey, the son of peasant farmers, is distracted from his chores by the Book of Beasts, which an artist is working on for the lady of the castle. As he pages through the book he imagines the adventures of a “mighty hero, a bold knight … why, Sir Godfrey the Glorious, of course!”

While Godfrey goes about his chores he tells the animals about Sir Godfrey’s adventures, unaware of the chaos that begins to unfold as he names each of the beasties in the book.

I knew I needed to read this book solely because of April Lee’s incredible illustration of the dragon on the front cover. Over the past couple of months I’ve read this book at least four times but each time I finished reading I couldn’t decide what I wanted to say about it. While I am in awe of the detailed drawings of all of the beasties and know I would have been drawn to the colours of the griffin, bonnacon and dragon as a child, I don’t think child me would have really enjoyed this book.

I found the details at the end of the story about life in an English castle and the different beasts interesting but am certain I would have bypassed this information if I’d read this book as a child as my interest in history and mythology didn’t make themselves known until I was an adult. I was distracted by the text within the scrolls, which didn’t seem necessary as the illustrations clearly told those components of the story.

This book was inspired by Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World, an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Getty Publications for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Godfrey, a peasant boy who works for the lord and lady of the castle, finds a bestiary, or illustrated book of beasts, on the way to do his chores one morning. He begins inventing his own story, placing “Sir Godfrey” at the center of numerous heroic deeds.

Sir Godfrey battles a lion, tames a unicorn, defeats a griffin, conquers a bonnacon, and triumphs over a dragon. Godfrey does not realise that each time he says the name of an animal, it magically emerges from the book, causing mayhem and inadvertently accomplishing his chores. The laughs pile up and the tension mounts: When will Godfrey realise that all this outrageous stuff is going on?

This book also contains engaging backmatter with information on life in the Middle Ages and a mini-bestiary drawn from original 13th-century manuscripts. Don’t Let the Beasties Escape This Book! is a humorous introduction to the medieval world.

Upside-Down Magic #4: Dragon Overnight – Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle & Emily Jenkins

Dragons!!!

Nory and her Upside-Down Magic class are going on a three day class trip to Dragon Haven, where injured dragons are taken care of. Unfortunately Pepper can’t attend because her fiercing magic would scare all of the dragons but the rest of Nory’s class are ready for this adventure, including their teacher, Ms. Starr, and the school nurse, Nurse Riley (whose first name we find out in this book – Felix!).

I enjoyed getting to know Andres better in this book. In the first three books of the series he’s primarily only been the boy on a leash who floats at the top of the UDM classroom because his upside down flying magic doesn’t allow him to do anything but stay airborne. It was lovely to see him interacting with other flyers and given the opportunity to let loose for a while and learn more about his ability.

Ms. Starr is still my favourite character. I wish I had been able to see her magic in action with the dragons. She’s such a sweetheart; so lovely and supportive and I want a teacher just like her.

“You’re letting yourself shine,” she told him, “and it makes me happy.”

Although she does make some mistakes in this book she quickly owns up to them and apologises.

I loved getting a glimpse of the different types of dragons being cared for at Dragon Haven and it was fun seeing Nory identify what type of dragon she becomes when she’s a dritten (part dragon, part kitten). I hope Nory returns to Dragon Haven in a future book to visit Roarie. I definitely didn’t like it when Nory took the baby dragon when it hatched after she’d been specifically told that it would imprint on the first face it saw and how bad that would be if it didn’t imprint on another dragon.

The fact that she didn’t have any consequences for doing this and making all of the staff worry about this missing baby dragon overnight really disappointed me. While it was nice for the story that when she gave up the baby dragon for another dragon to care for the fact that the baby essentially didn’t even give her a second glance as it left negated the whole concept of imprinting for me.

Of all of the wonderful dragons described in this book my favourites were the luminous dragonettes. I need an entire rainbow of luminous dragonettes! They’re the smallest species of dragon and they light up like fireflies!

While there was bacon in this book the food I craved the most while reading was Nory’s waffle sandwich with hot fudge, whipped cream and hot caramel sauce. 🤤

I love that while each of the books in this series focuses on Nory as the main character there’s also a spotlight put on at least one of her UDM classmates. I’m really looking forward to learning more about Willa, who has the ability to make it rain indoors, in the next book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nory Horace can turn herself into a kitten. But sometimes she adds in a bit of dragon and, well, accidentally turns into a dritten. Oops? Her friend Andres Padillo can fly high … but then he can’t fly back down again.

Nory and Andres are in an Upside-Down Magic class with other kids who have unusual magic. Now they’re off on their first-ever overnight field trip! At Dragon Haven, Nory, Andres, and their UDM classmates get to swim with dragons, fly with dragons, and feed dragons. There’s even a Hatchery, where they might get to see a newborn dragon.

There’s only one downer. The UDM kids aren’t the only ones visiting Dragon Haven. There are other students there, too. Students from another school. Students with “normal” magic. Dragon rescue, bonfires, and pajama breakfasts won’t be nearly as fun with a bunch of snooty strangers.

Unless … maybe everything isn’t as bad as it first seems. Thrown together with kids who are probably enemies, but might be friends, the UDM kids dive into their topsy-turviest adventure yet.

There’s a Dragon in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

There really is a dragon in this book and she’s adorable! This interactive book is so cute that you your kids will love doing everything possible to help out this newly hatched dragon. The illustrations are so endearing and her expressions are so delightful that I couldn’t help myself. I tickled her nose and that made her sneeze, which started a fire that I had to help blow out. Whether you’re flapping the book to help her fly or imagining yummy treats to feed her, this little sweetie is going to make her way into your heart. I need to borrow someone’s kid so I can read this to someone who’ll appreciate it as much as I do.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

OH LOOK, there’s an EGG in your book!

But this isn’t any old egg – there’s a dragon in it … And pretty soon she has set your book ON FIRE. OH NO!

Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott have created a fantastically interactive sequel to their bestselling There’s a Monster in Your Book. Children will love stroking, poking and flapping the book to make magic happen as they turn the pages. Can they help Little Dragon find a way to stop the fire and fly off on her own adventure? 

Dragons: Father and Son – Alexandre Lacroix

Illustrations – Ronan Badel

Dragons: Father and Son tells the story of a father attempting to teach his son the dragon tradition of burning down houses. Drake is not exactly proficient at fire breathing, having used his abilities for cooking snacks but nothing ever as big as burning down a house!

Drake finds that he’s not quite a chip off the old block when he flies to a nearby village the next day, ready to make his father proud. Humans don’t seem to be as ferocious as his father has taught him. Can Drake find a way to make his father proud and still stay true to himself?

I loved the expressions captured on particularly the father’s face in Ronan Badel’s illustrations. The father’s use of glasses near the end was a chuckle moment for me. The illustrations complemented the story well and I imagine children will enjoy the father’s cranky expressions at the beginning of the book and the son getting ready to burn down parts of the village in earnest to please his father. I really liked the drawings of the bats.

My favourite picture would have to be when Drake tries to go to sleep the night before he sets out for the village. The look on Drake’s face as he contemplates the next day’s activities is priceless and there was a special cute factor with him holding onto his bird’s leg while the bird sleeps peacefully.

Also, dragons!!! 🐉 😃

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Strokkur is a young dragon, whose father instructs him to act like a proper dragon – and to go out and set fire to some houses. But Strokker isn’t confident about his skills and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. How will be prove himself without upsetting his dad and everyone around him? A funny and moving story about the bonds between fathers and children, with a positive, peaceful message – and all the magic and mayhem you’d hope for in a tale about dragons.

Who Feels Mad, Dear Dragon? – Margaret Hillert

Illustrations – Jack Pullan

After my love of dragons was encouraged by Margaret Hillert’s Es Halloween, querido dragón / It’s Halloween, Dear Dragon I scoured NetGalley for more books by this author and illustrator, Jack Pullan.

In Who Feels Mad, Dear Dragon?, Dear Dragon and unnamed boy have both got their cranky pants on. No matter what they’re asked to do, they simply don’t want to. Mother and father each tell them not to get mad and after doing the activity they were spitting the dummy over, unnamed boy and Dear Dragon decide they either enjoyed the activity or that it was good for them after all. A lot of the activities centred around going to bed. Dear Dragon and unnamed boy get up the next day with a new attitude, decide that they won’t get mad and will have a good day.

Now, these parents must be saints, remaining calm regardless of their child and dragon’s bad behaviour. Personally I was disappointed that not once was an apology given by the boy or dragon and there didn’t appear to be any consequences at all for their bad behaviour. The boy attends school so surely he’s too old to be chucking tantrums where he’s laying in bed after being tucked in with the covers off, kicking and punching the air, isn’t he? I wouldn’t have gotten away with behaviour like that without consequences at any age.

Frustrations aside, this book is part of the Beginning-to-Read series and as I expect an adult will be reading this book to the child, at least initially, there is the opportunity for engagement with the child about Dear Dragon and unnamed boy’s behaviour. If I was reading this to a child I’d be getting them to think about the way the characters behaved, when they should have apologised, and how they could have better managed being mad about what they’d been asked to do.

There’s good use of word repetition and a Reading Reinforcement section at the back of the book that assists the adult to help the reader get more out of the book. The Reading Reinforcement has activities relating to phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and text comprehension. There’s also a list of the 73 words found in the book.

I love Jack Pullan’s illustrations again in this book. I liked the pictures in the Halloween Dear Dragon book more but that is solely due to the fun that could be had with that book’s subject matter. The illustrations in this book are still brightly coloured and well suited to the story. The expressions on Dear Dragon and unnamed boy’s faces clearly show when they are mad and when they are happy.

For a book that helps children learn to read, it seems to tick all of the right boxes. However, if I wanted a book to help teach a child how to deal with anger, I would be looking for one that has consequences for bad behaviour and that provides age appropriate ways of managing emotions without chucking a tantrum.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Norwood House Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A boy and his pet dragon feel mad when asked to do daily tasks. Together they learn to manage their anger and find that completing their tasks is a good thing. Emphasises the importance of controlling the emotion of anger. Teacher resources include note to caregivers, word list, reading activities to strengthen phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. 

Es Halloween, Querido Dragon / It’s Halloween, Dear Dragon – Margaret Hillert

Illustrations – Jack Pullan

So, there’s an adorable dragon all dressed up for Halloween and holding a carved pumpkin on the cover. SOLD!

Es Halloween, querido dragón / It’s Halloween, Dear Dragon is a gorgeous little story for new readers, with all text in Spanish and English, with the exception of the activities at the end of the book which are only in English.

There’s word repetition and colour recognition, along with a Reading Reinforcement section at the end of the story to guide the adult in helping their new reader get the most out of the experience. Beginning with the boy and Dear Dragon raking up leaves, then taking the reader through a variety of Halloween preparation activities before attending a party and flying home on a broomstick, Margaret Hillert has written a simple yet lovely story that is appropriate for her audience.

With brightly coloured and engaging illustrations by Jack Pullan, our sweet little dragon is clearly the star of the show. The illustrations complement the text well and will make you want to add a dragon to your family as well, if you don’t already have one.

This is the first dual language early reader I’ve come across so I don’t have anything to compare it to but from what I can tell, this book delivers on its promises and has magical elements that will ignite your child’s imagination as well as improve their reading ability and comprehension.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Norwood House Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

An easy story, in English and Spanish, about a boy and his pet dragon that enjoy fall activities and celebrate a happy Halloween. Beginning-to-Read books foster independent reading and comprehension. Using high frequency words and repetition, readers gain confidence while enjoying stories about everyday life and adventures. Full-colour and updated illustrations included. Reading reinforcement activities and a word list in the back of the book. Activities focus on foundational, language and reading skills. Perfect for an early introduction to Spanish or for ESL.

The Dream Dragon – Kathryn England

Illustrations – Valeria Issa

Spoilers Ahead!

This story shows how what we experience throughout our days can show up in our dreams at night, in particular what we’re thinking about as we fall asleep. At the beginning of this story, the boy has a book about dragons on his bedside table and while he sleeps he is protected by a dream dragon.

The dream dragon wanted to be the boy’s main dream so it would be remembered in the morning. The dream dragon chased good dreams away and breathed fire on the bad dreams, until the boy learns about dinosaurs at school. The boy then has dream protectors in the forms of a T-rex, followed by a super hero, then a pirate. The dream dragon is sad that the boy no longer dreams of it, but at the end of the book a girl has a book about dragons on her bedside table…

Bedtime stories are powerful and this one would be a great tool to help children who experience nightmares. I love the idea of teaching children that the characters in their bedtime stories can be their own dream protectors, doing battle on the child’s behalf while they’re sleeping to help keep away bad dreams.

I liked the illustrations, none of which looked scary. The dream dragon itself is quite quirky and kind of adorable in an ugly cute kind of way.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Xist Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A dragon protects a child’s dreams from nightmares in this picture book perfect for bedtime. Bedtime stories inspires a series of dream protectors for a little boy. The dream dragon keeps the nightmares away and is joined by dinosaurs, pirates, super heroes and more in the quest to keep nighttime safe.

Do Not Take Your Dragon to Dinner – Julie Gassman

Illustrations – Andy Elkerton

Do you want to teach your children table manners and have fun doing it? Just add dragons! I love this book so much! I mean, come on! There’s dragons!

The rhymes make reading aloud lots of fun and the gorgeous illustrations complement the text brilliantly. Whether they’re being read to or reading to themselves, kids are going to love this book. They will be able to clearly contrast the rude behaviour at the beginning of the book with the good table manners shown at the end.

The illustrations are incredible! I really loved seeing the diversity of people (and dragons) shown at the restaurant. The colours throughout the book were beautiful and vibrant, and the expressions on the faces of everyone at the restaurant were priceless.

This is one of those books where everything works well together. You could take away the illustrations and still have a great story. You could take away the text and still understand the story from the pictures alone.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read this book. This book needs to be in libraries and homes everywhere! This is a book I’d still enjoy reading the 100th time. Did I mention the dragons?!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

We know you shouldn’t take your dragon to the library, but what about taking him out to dinner? After all, dragons need to eat too! But with fiery breath, flapping wings, and pointy spikes, that might not be a good idea! Rhyming text and diverse characters bring the importance of dinner manners to a new level in this colorful picture book by Julie Gassman.