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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Two Dragons and a Rogue Titan -- books for fourth grade, fifth grade, and sixth grade

Coville, Bruce (1991) Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.  New York:  Scholastic



Opening lines:  "Jeremy Thatcher crumpled his paper in disgust.  The dragon he had been trying to draw looked like a dog with wings."

Jeremy Thatcher wanders into a strange store he has never seen before and soon he finds himself holding a dragon egg, which the proprietor tells him must be handled very carefully.  A few days later a tiny red dragon hatches.  Jeremy figures it is the best pet he has ever had.  Best of all, no one else can see it, and it can communicate with him mind-to-mind.  However, when the dragon starts to grow, when a girl in his class can see it too, and when Jeremy realizes that when he gets angry with the school bully, so does his dragon, he starts to wonder if raising a dragon is going to be as fun as he hoped.

Though Jeremy himself is in sixth grade, I think there are a lot of fourth graders who could handle this book (and since kids always prefer to read about someone older than them...)  This book could work for literature circles -- it has a good story and a nice ending -- but it is probably best suited to a classroom library. 




Riordan, Rick (2007) The Titan's Curse.  New York:  Scholastic

 

Opening line:  "The Friday before winter break, my mom pack me an overnight bag and a few deadly weapons and took me to a new boarding school."

This is the third in the Percy Jackson series and yes, it would probably be best if readers started with the beginning of the series, but I wanted to say that for kids finding their way into fantasy writing, this series is an excellent introduction.  It is exciting, gripping, fun, easy to follow, and has a remarkable ability to kindle an interest in Greek mythology. 

In this one, Percy Jackson, son of Posiedon, must rescue his friend Annabeth from the evil forces that have captured her -- forces that include no less than the most famous titan ever.  Percy is joined in his quest by some new allies, followers of Artemis.  We also get to meet Apollo, Annabeth;s parents, and some other new characters.  The book contains the usual assortment of close calls, narrow escapes, desperate situations, stunning rescues, and magical moments.

Look, I could give you a whole plot summary, but I think we both know you don't need that.  Get the book, read it yourself, and make it available to your students.  I certainly know young readers who read this before they were in fifth grade, and plenty who started the series after that, but fifth grade seems like a good place to start.




 LeGuin, Ursula K. (1968) A Wizard of Earthsea.  New York:  Bantam


Opening lines:  "The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards."

There are some classics that remain in front of young readers because they are universally respected and honored (thing Narnia of Middle Earth).  There are others that seem to get lost in the shuffle of history, even though they are magnificent.  Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea is one of those. 

Here we meet young Sparrowhawk and follow his growth from a lonely young man to the greatest wizard the world of Earthsea has ever known.  Along the way we see him outwit marauding invaders, study as an apprentice and later as a student, make a colossal mistake, and go head-to-head with a dragon and worse.  To be honest, this book is a little slow in finding its feat.  Once it really gets moving though, it is difficult to put down.  Sparrowhawk learns a lot of important lessons in his journey, and it is a satisfying book.

This isn't like Harry Potter, where a gifted person with a wand and a spellbook can get the hang of magic pretty quickly.  Sparrowhawk (or Ged as he is later called) has to work hard for his abilities and magic in this world is much less reliable than it seems to be in the world of Hogwarts.  Good readers who like fantasy should be able to jump on board this world starting in sixth grade or so.  And if you have never read it, you should. 

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