Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Beware! Fledging Dragon! The Dragon in the Library by Kate Klimo

Daisy opened the garage door and Jesse made a dramatic entrance. "Ta-da!" he said, holding the tall frosted glass of Brussels sprouts smoothie up high. He had garnished it with a sprig of mint and had even stuck two straws in it. He carried it over to Emmy and held it to her lips. The cousins watched as their pet dragon opened her bright pink mouth, fastened her lips around the st4raw and nearly emptied the glass in one long, noisy slurp.

"Patooooie!" Emmy spat out the smoothie--and both straws, too--all over the garage floor.

The adolescent Emmy, short for Emerald, is in an uncharacteristic funk, and ten-year-old dragon keepers Daisy and Jesse are unable to diagnose the cause of her cranky mood. All Emmy wants to do is curl up in her nest in the garage and speed read E. Nesbitt's Dragon Tales in solitude. Aside from an occasional trip to the library with the kids, masked in her usual magical disguise as a large sheepdog, Emmy is just not herself. Sure, when she had just hatched in Jesse's sock drawer, she sometimes spit out foods she didn't like, but it was cute then. Now that Emmy is half-grown and as big as an elephant, it's just plain messy--and worrisome. The kids decide it's time for a consultation with their on-line dragon guru, Professor Anderson.

But as soon as the Professor appears on screen, he announces "There's a matter of grave importance I need to discuss with you," and warns that the evil St. George, known as "Skinner" for his habit of slaying and flaying dragons for their magical skins, is on the loose. "Red alert, Dragon Keepers!" the Professor warns.

And he's right. Soon the kids learn that the evil Sadie Huffington, television's diva of doggy behavior classes, has kidnapped the Professor and is holding him prisoner in her nearby faux medieval castle--and his ransom is that the young dragon keepers turn over their Emmy to her.

Provisioned with Mrs. Alodie's potent valerian tea and some apparently magical dog biscuits, the two set off, with the still grumpy Emmy masked as their pet for the library's annual Pets Allowed Sleepover Party. But Jesse and Daisy are not planning to do much sleeping; their objective is to stay awake until all is quiet and to sneak into the off-limits adult nonfiction section to locate a book on local historic buildings, hoping to find a floor plan of Sadie's castle that will enable them to elude her vicious man-dog guards and rescue the Professor.

But the kids soon run into much more than an illicit escapade in the stacks--in fact, their encounter with William Wink, a strangely garrulous "shelf elf," leads them to an extreme library experience, a trip down below to the magical Scriptorium, the redoubt where slain dragons live within their own magical books.

"Think of it as heaven, with visiting privileges. Traveling privileges as well. These volumes contain the sum total of the lives of the dragons that lived them: their thoughts, ideas, sermons, lectures, homilies, theories, spells, poetry, philosophy, psychology, recipes, helpful hints, pithy sayings...hopes and dreams for those who follow." William Wink sucked in a a deep breath, exhaled, and then smiled.

Shelf Elf Wink summons the deceased dragon Balthazaar of Belvedere from his own book and as the ghostly dragon tells his story, Jesse and Daisy realize with horror that Sadie Huffington is more than an opportunistic cable-channel sensation seeker: she is the evil Sadra Uffington of legend, who plans to capture Emmy and reinstate the rule of her betrothed George the Dragon Slayer. It's all up to Jesse, Daisy, and Emmy to infiltrate her castle and save the Professor and all dragondom from destruction.

In this third installment in her popular Dragon Keepers series, Kate Klimo picks up the action right where Dragon Keepers #2: The Dragon in the Driveway left off. Dragon Keepers #3: The Dragon in the Library (Random House, 2010) broadens the adventure as Emerald the baby dragon grows into her magical powers and unfurls her newly fledged dragon wings to fly them into further adventures. Middle readers who are not quite ready to, er, scale up to Christopher Paolini's extensive Eragon books or Chris D'Lacey's exciting Last Dragon Chronicles will find Klimo's witty young dragon keepers good guides into the world of world of draconology. And readers who can't wait for the next dragon fantasy in this series should dig into Chris D'Lacey's charming The Dragons of Wayward Crescent books.

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