Funke, Cornelia. 2004. DRAGON RIDER. Trans. by Anthea Bell. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0439456959 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]
Humans and their machines are developing land so close to the peaceful valley where a group of dragons live, that fear of discovery spurs Firedrake and his brownie friend Sorrel, to go in search of the legendary ancient dragon home known as the Rim of Heaven. Firedrake is a silver dragon energized by moonlight. Knowing that they must fly half-way around the world, Firedrake and Sorrel enlist the help of a friendly young orphan named Ben who could be the dragon rider foretold in prophetic lore. Along the way they encounter many fantastic creatures including mountain dwarfs, fairies, a thousand-eyed djinn, a basilisk, and a sea serpent. This arduous journey becomes extremely dangerous when Nettlebrand, a golden dragon created for the sole purpose of hunting and killing silver dragons, pursues Firedrake in the hopes of finding the elusive Rim of Heaven and its silver inhabitants.
The energy, action, adventure and intrigue in this amazing story will capture the reader’s interest. There are spies and counterspies, loyal friends and treacherous traitors. The strong plot and subplots are balanced perfectly with humor and clever dialogue. For example, Sorrel is an ill-tempered, sarcastic, pessimistic creature, yet her witty banter and loyalty to Firedrake make her a lovable character. Lola Graytail, a skilled and intelligent rat, never addresses Twigleg, the homunculus properly. She innocently refers to him as a “humpleklumpus,” “humblecuss,” “homuncupus,” “hinclecompulsus,” and so on. Funke’s vivid imagination is clearly at work in this novel. Readers can escape into a world of fantastic creatures while remaining grounded in a classic story of good versus evil.
Readers can investigate the origins (folklore, mythology, etc.) of the various creatures mentioned in the story.
Brief mention is made of a small photograph that Ben carries in a bag around his neck. Readers can elaborate on the significance of this photograph (e.g. Could it help explain how he came to be an orphan?).
Other novels about dragons:
Downer, Ann. HATCHING MAGIC. ISBN 0689834004
Rupp, Rebecca. THE DRAGON OF LONELY ISLAND. ISBN 0763604089
By S. Zulema Silva Bewley