Dragons, alien invaders, and evil baddies bent on world domination – young readers will love this fun quest to save the library and save the world.
Ten-year-old Kit thinks books are boring so she’s not happy when her two best friends, Josh and Alita, drag her to the library on the first day of the school holidays. While her friends are happy to settle down to read, Kit decides to look around. She finds a secret cabinet of books and can’t resist taking a look. However, when she opens the pages and starts to read, she discovers much more than she bargained for. She slips into the world described in the book and has to be rescued by the librarian. Kit’s desperate to know what happened but she’s not prepared for the answer. It turns out the library is run by wizards and, since she can use the book’s magic, Kit must be a wizard too. What’s more the library is protecting something very special – a sleeping dragon! It’s all very exciting until Kit uncovers an evil plot: developer, Hadrian Salt, has a plan to claim the dragon’s magical power and use it to take over the world. It’s over to Kit and her friends to save the library and save the world.
The Dragon in the Library is pitched exactly right for readers aged between about seven and nine. The language is simple and accessible without being dull and the book is structured in a way that will maintain the reader’s interest without being too complex. And, most important of all, the concept and plot are incredible fun.
On the surface, the characters are the standard stereotypes for this type of story but debut author, Louie Stowell, incorporates some clever deviations that successfully invert this. I particularly liked the way she deliberately reverses the traditional gender roles when introducing us to the personalities of Kit, Josh and Alita. In fact, the only character that truly fits the anticipated stereotype is Hadrian Salt who is very much the typical evil villain. This, however, works brilliantly. Salt is, without doubt, my favourite character and I revelled in the opportunity to read the chapters from his point of view.
I also adored the initial description of Salt, most especially his hair which looks “like hair a robot might weave out of scratchy metal, if it had never seen real human hair but once read a book about it, in the dark.” The initial illustration of Salt is equally fun with his skeletal frame, long fingers and malicious frown. Indeed, the black and white illustrations by David Ortu add an extra level of enjoyment to this book. I especially liked the piles of books that introduce each chapter and the way the illustrations emphasise the diversity of the story’s characters. Children, however, are more likely to focus on the action pictures – the bounding and ultra-cute puppy/dragon, the house with chicken legs, or the library’s alien invaders.
If you enjoyed this and would like to read another story about a dragon, I’d recommend the series by Andy Shepherd. This starts with The Boy who Grew Dragons and continues with The Boy who Flew with Dragons and The Boy who Lived with Dragons
Publication date: June 2019
Publisher: Nosy Crow