10 best kids' books about dragons, chosen by Liz Flanagan
Published on: 07 October 2018 Author: Liz Flanagan
Liz Flanagan's fabulous new book Dragon Daughter tells the tale of Milla, who discovers four large eggs on an island where dragons used to fill the skies...
It's the first instalment of a brand new epic fantasy saga, and we're already excited to discover what happens next. While we wait, we asked Liz to choose some of her other favourite books about dragons - this little lot should keep us going...
I'm fascinated by dragons – and I'm obviously not the only one! Legends and stories about dragons are found in many, many different times and places, from ancient Norse myths to contemporary Japanese film.
But the ways in which we imagine dragons can be surprisingly different. Sometimes they're tame and friendly, sometimes huge and terrifying, and often wise and knowing.
Why are we so drawn to dragons? Perhaps it's the combination of fire and flight that is so irresistible? Or the idea that something so powerful can hatch from a fragile egg?
Certainly I got lots of my ideas about hatching dragons from watching my own flock of hens nurture their eggs so very fiercely.
I know that many of the dragon books I loved when I was younger have shaped my imagining of Iggie and the other dragons (including the wonderful Ann McCaffrey fantasy novels not listed here). And I've hugely enjoyed reading other writers' dragon books for children and young adults, spotting the similarities and differences between our fictional fire-breathers...
In some books, dragons are a bit like favourite pets; in others, they're a breed apart, intelligent and logical. And one of these books features a character who is half-human, half-dragon. So here are some of my recent favourites, in age order, more or less!
1. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (Hodder Children's Books)
Quite unlike the (also very good) film based on this series, the book has more mud and snot and humour. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third and his undersized dragon Toothless save all the Vikings on their island with their quick thinking and skill at speaking Dragonese.
2. Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons by Dugald A. Steer, illustrated by Wayne Anderson, Douglas Carrel and Helen Ward (Templar)
A wonderful treasure trove of dragon information, covering different species, habitats and life-cycles, as well as useful spells and charms. Stunningly illustrated, the book blends real history and science with mythology in a truly bewitching way.
3. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury)
Adventurine the young dragon is impatient to start exploring, ignoring her family's warnings. An encounter with a food mage and a taste of enchanted hot chocolate later, and Adventurine is transformed into a girl, one who must survive in the human world. A hymn to friendship and chocolate and following your passions - it's impossible not to fall in love with this story.
4. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Piccadilly Press)
I adored this fresh and funny fairytale. The main characters include Xan, a wise old witch; Glerk, the swamp monster; and Fyrian the Perfectly Tiny Dragon; as well as the unforgettable protagonist, Luna. A big-hearted, magical, middle-grade novel that has won a rare place on my 'favourite books' shelf.
5. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (Chicken House)
My youngest daughter's copy of Dragon Rider is falling apart, its pages tattered and falling out. Only her most beloved and re-read books get this treatment!
This is the story of Firedrake, a silver dragon; his friend Sorrel, the brownie; and a boy called Ben, who work together with a whole cast of magical creatures to defeat the wicked golden dragon Nettlebrand.
6. Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Geneva B (Random House)
Jaxon's mother leaves him with an eccentric old lady called Ma while she goes to fight an eviction notice, but Jax's day does not go as expected. He soon discovers that Ma is actually a witch, on a mission to save three dragons and return them to a magic realm. Full of friendship and family surprises, I loved this magical, world-hopping story, with its contemporary urban setting and diverse cast of characters.
7. The Earthsea sequence by Ursula K Le Guin (Puffin)
Ursula Le Guin's words conjure a dragon in terrifyingly convincing detail. Powerful and majestic, there is nothing cosy or tame here. The dragon Kalessin is ancient and knowing, armoured and fierce: a formidable ally, rather than a close friend.
8. Eragon by Christopher Paolini (Doubleday)
An epic Tolkien-flavoured adventure. At its heart is the central relationship between Eragon and his dragon Saphira, who communicate telepathically. I love the hatching sequence here and Eragon's realisation that the dragon is speaking to him.
9. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Random House)
In this book, there's an uneasy peace between dragons and humans, threatened by the murder of the prince of Goredd. Seraphina, a talented court musician, is drawn into webs of complex intrigue, all the while hiding secrets of her own. I love the characters and intricate world-building of Hartman's debut novel.
10. The Secret Library by Genevieve Cogman (Tor)
Slightly squeezing this one in, as it probably counts as YA/fantasy crossover, but my teenagers and I have devoured this series. Thrilling and fast-paced, it's very funny and gorgeously self-aware – with clear nods to Sherlock Holmes and film noir.
Irene Winters is a librarian (think secret agent), flitting between alternate worlds to retrieve rare books with Kai, her handsome assistant who disguises his identity as a powerful dragon.