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Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.

PARALLEL VISIONS book cover

Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Great Middle Grade Books


The Dragon in the Sock Drawer: Dragon Keepers #1

Review

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer: Dragon Keepers #1
by Kate Klimo, illustrated by John Shroades
Random House,(July 2008)
ISBN-10: 0375855874
ISBN-13: 9780375855870

My rating:



"Jesse!"
There it was again!
"Jesseee! Let. Me. Out!"
Jesse looked down. Either he was going crazy or the voice was coming from the rock he was holding in his hand. He held it up to his ear.
"Let! Me! Out!" said the rock, or was the voice coming from something inside the rock?
Jesse held the rock at arm's length and stared at it. Uncle Joe liked to say: "If you see a rock that talks to you, pick it up and bring it home." Jesse had always been pretty sure that Uncle Joe did not mean this for real. But now he wondered.
The rock looked ordinary. It was round and nubby, the color of oatmeal with blackberry bits in it, including the green leafy part. It was warm from the sun and fit his hand like a softball."
--The Dragon In the Sock Drawer by Kate Klimo, illustrated by John Shroades, p. 8.

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer is a thoroughly enjoyable, satisfying read for magic fans. If you like middle-grade books that have characters discover magic in realistic settings, you'll want to pick this book up. I happen to love the genre, and I loved almost every page of this light, fun book.

Jesse is staying with his cousin Daisy and his aunt and uncle for a year while his parents set up a children's clinic in Africa. Normally he traveled everywhere with them, but he wanted to live in America for a while. When Jesse and Daisy are out hunting rocks with his uncle, Jesse finds a rock that asks him to let it out. A mysterious man is also looking throug the rocks. Jesse takes the rock home, and later a dragon hatches. Jesse and Daisy research dragons, find an adult online who knows about them, and realize they've become Dragon Keepers--protecting their dragon, Emmy (short for Emerald) from the dragon slayer--St. George. St. George finds Emmy, and then Jesse and Daisy have to rescue Emmy and protect her from St. George, who, because he's an adult, has more credibility and power, and so manages to keep hunting Emmy, even in their own house. It's up to Jesse, Daisy, and Emmy herself to keep Emmy safe.

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer is very well written. Klimo leaves us with a gripping hook every chapter end, compelling the reader to turn the page to find out how Jesse and Daisy get out of the next problem. Klimo also skillfully sprinkles detail in with action (except for the first three pages, which contain a lot of setting and backstory, and which I wish had been condensed), and the details she chooses help the reader really see the place and the people.

Somehow the book had a bit of an old-fashioned feel to me which I really enjoyed (despite the inclusion of email). Perhaps it was the strong bond between the cousins, the way they used their imaginations in play and hoped to find magical objects before they actually did, or the family atmosphere. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it.

I loved the tender and heartwarming moments (such as Jesse's aunt giving him a hug from her and from his mom, who is in another country), and the everyday family upsets (Daisy's father getting angry at them). One small false note, at least for me, was how Jesse and Daisy still kept up their imagining that objects they collected had magical properties, even after they had a real magical creature in their lives. I didn't believe they'd do that. Still, most of Klimo's treatment of the kids with magic felt very realistic to me, including Jesse not believing at first in the magic or knowing what to do; Jesse being afraid at first to pick up the baby dragon; and the two cousins floundering over how to protect and care for the dragon. That made me believe in them and the story all the more.

Readers know early on that magic (or magical creatures) is part of the story--if they haven't already got that from the title and the book cover, something magical happens five pages in. This is a great way to grab a reader. I also love the way that Klimo brings a love of books and reading into the story many times, through Jesse and Daisy's way to keep in touch (reading the same fantasy books), through the cousins' love of and bringing details from The Lion, the witch, and the Wardrobe into their lives (by trying to find a closet that would let them into Narnia), and through their visit to the library. It's fun and validating for book lovers--and for readers who haven't read the Narnia books (or watched the movie), the closet is briefly and unobtrusively explained. That love of books really added to the charm of the story.

Jesse takes a while to believe in the magic, which feels realistic and helps keep the reader believing in the world. Klimo uses everyday actions and details that ground us in the "real world" of the story, such as Jesse and Daisy preparing food for a picnic, and Daisy's father, Daisy, and details in Jesse's bedroom that belonged to his cousin who's now married, complete with Star Wars shelf paper lining the drawers. These details help make the story seem concrete and real, and help us believe in it.

Klimo keeps readers turning pages through the fun of the magic, and also the thread of danger that is woven throughout the story, as Emmy is threatened by the dragon slayer. Jesse is clearly the star of the story, though Daisy pairs up with him and takes part in the action. It's nice that there's a strong girl character as well as a boy character, and it also means that Jesse isn't alone with all the problems that come up trying to protect Emmy, the dragon. This will be reassuring to readers.

Though Jesse and Daisy work to protect Emmy, I was a little disappointed twice--when they gave Emmy up the first time (though kids are fairly powerless in dealing with adults, but still they could have run with her--or had the power dynamic underscored even more), and also the ending. The ending was the most disappointing to me, since, though Jesse and Daisy made efforts to protect Emmy, it was really Emmy who saved herself. It would have been much more satisfying if Jesse, the child protagonist, had been the one to save Emmy. And if the villain hunted dragons, wouldn't he know about dragons being able to mask? I wasn't sure I believed Emmy's escape. The ending reduced my rating by a half star.

After Emmy saves herself by shapeshifting, the reader never sees her change back to her true shape, a dragon, and this felt a bit unsatisfying to me. I wanted to see Emmy's real shape again, and have her relating to Jesse and Daisy in that form. I also wanted Miss Alodie's going along with their fib explained. I thought it was hinted that she might actually be a gnome, or at least believe in dragons, but that was never explored. Another tiny detail that wasn't explained, and that I'd thought would be built up, was Jesse keeping Emmy's real name from the villain.

Emmy, the dragon, has a real character, moving from baby-like talk and attitude (insistent on being fed, having tantrums) to a toddler. I also like that, although she's a baby and has a sweet character, she also has sharp claws and acid spit. It was also nice to see a boy acting, at times, with tenderness and a kind of mothering towards the baby dragon.

The villain is a little one-dimensional and over-the-top, but young readers may appreciate this, as it clearly shows who the villain really is, and also makes him not as scary or sinister as he could be.

John Shroades' beautiful pencil illustrations at the beginning of each chapter really add to the book, bringing a visual representation of each chapter's key events. I even found myself wishing for a few more illustrations inserted within the text.

The ending suggested their could be a sequel--and if there is, I will snatch up a copy. The Dragon in the Sock Drawer is a delightful, entertaining fantasy--one I know I'll reread.

Highly recommended.

-Added July 17, 2008


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