Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: Dragonbreath Series

For the holidays, I'll be reviewing a book or series every day from December 1st through 24th.

Today's series is Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon, our holiday picks for reluctant readers.

Danny Dragonbreath is a real live dragon living in a world of lizards and amphibian where no one thinks he exists.  It doesn't help that he has a little trouble breathing fire.  In Dragonbreath, Danny has a report about the ocean, so for research, he and his best friend Wendell visit his sea monster cousin under the Sargasso Sea.  Attack of the Ninja Frogs sees Danny and Wendell traveling to mythical Japan to stop a series of ninja attacks on their exchange student classmate.  In Curse of the Were-Wiener, Wendell is bitten by a cut-rate cafeteria hot dog from Transylvania and starts to exhibit strange symptoms.  Lair of the Bat Monster takes the boys to Mexico to visit Danny's researcher cousin where they discover a new species of giant--really giant--bat.  In No Such Thing As Ghosts, Danny and Wendell are joined for trick-or-treating by junior skeptic Christiana, but even she can't explain what's happening when they get locked in a haunted house.  Revenge of the Horned Bunnies takes the whole crew to summer camp, along with Danny's annoying cousin, who promptly befriends a jackalope whose family is missing.  In When Fairies Go Bad, Danny and friends travel to the fairy realm to rescue his mother, who has been stolen for destroying a fairy ring.

When I started this series, I anticipated liking them for what they are and recommending them to the seven-to-ten set.  Now that I've read them all, I actively love them and am recommending them to adults for their own reading.  These books are both fun and funny, touching on many out-there day-dream subjects and bringing them into Danny's real life.  Vernon's writing never feels dumbed-down and even adults will be laughing out loud.  Think of these as the Pixar movies of the book world.  As a bonus, two of the characters are routinely identified as nerds, but never as a negative thing and--while the series is named after Danny and Wendell is his constant companion--Suki and Christiana are just as compelling as characters and given plenty to do.  Earlier installments of the series focus more on education (the first two books have fact boxes), but most books have a learning component.  Even if it's about something like fairy legend, there is a lot of research going into the story.  The seamless transitions from traditional format to graphic novel and back again make this a slam dunk for those who balk at more serious looking novels without compromising quality.

This series is recommended for reluctant readers, fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and anyone with a quirky sense of humor.

The Dragonbreath series is published by Dial and retails for $6.99 a piece (paperback; books 1 and 2 only) and $12.99 a piece (hardcover).  I bought my copies.  You can get yours at Left Bank Books today!

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