So, let’s just start with some real talk. This is a hard time to be a parent, am I right? At this point, most of us have been cooped up at home with our families, to the extent that work and other obligations allow, for 7 months. We’re all just doing our best to create a sense of ‘normal’ for our kids.
One of the normalizing activities I’ve kept up during quarantine has been nightly bedtime reading. But what do you do when you can’t even visit your local library to pick up new books? I remember the days when my son insisted on the same stories every single night, but those days are long gone! This little info-hungry beast requires a constant stream of literary input.
Enter one of the most awesome (and free!) programs we’ve ever taken part in… the Book Buddies program offered by our city’s public library. I highly recommend checking to see if your community offers a similar program. I initially signed my son up because though he’s a strong reader, he’s very reluctant to read at home. He would always prefer to be read to.
But I surmised that if another adult asked him to read, he’d probably do it. Turns out, I was right. My son was paired with the children’s librarian at our local branch and she has been just a wonderful asset during this crazy time. She asked what my son most enjoys reading about and then surprised us with a stack of books curated especially for him. When he saw them on the counter, he actually TURNED OFF his tablet and started reading right away. Magic!
Now, finally getting to the book review, his Buddy shared with him the book she most enjoyed as a child. I thought it might be fun for both of them if we read it and then surprised her during their next Zoom call. Fortunately, the book has been exciting and engaging, so it hasn’t felt like a chore at all. I can see why she enjoyed it so much, as my son has asked for ‘one more chapter’ every night this week.
The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp, tells the story of three siblings, Hannah, Zachary and Sarah Emily. The trio travel with the mother (a mystery novelist, cool!) to Lonely Island, off Maine, for the summer. Their mother is working on her latest book and she thinks it will be the perfect place for the children to explore and create their own adventures while she’s working. Their father, a marine biologist, is away for the summer on a ship.
They’re staying at the home of their great Aunt Mehitabel (what a name!), though she is away during their visit. She does send the children a message prior to their arrival and along with a key to the ‘Tower Room’. She also suggests that if they have time on their hands, they should visit Drake’s Hill.
On the morning after the family’s arrival on Lonely Island, Zachary and Sarah Emily discover the Tower Room. It’s full of interesting treasures, including an intricately decorated wooden box. Unable to open it, they leave it be and head off for breakfast. After their meal, the children decide to set out for Drake’s Hill, which they believe they spied from the windows of the Tower Room.
After an arduous trek, the children come to the opening of a cave. Ever the intrepid explorers, they decide to enter it, almost immediately coming face to face with the last creature they could have expected… a three headed dragon! After the initial shock wears off, the dragon, Fafnyr Goldenwings, explains that there is nothing to fear. Dragons are not the terrifying beasts they’ve been portrayed as. And in Fafnyr’s case, we learn that they (two of the heads are male, one is female) have been a friend and savior of children throughout history.
Fafnyr is one dragon, with three heads. Only one head is awake at a time, though each head knows everything that the others know. This is a clever device that keeps the story moving along seamlessly. Each of the heads takes a turn regaling the trio with stories of children from the past who have both helped, and been helped, by the dragon.
There’s Mei-Lan, a Chinese girl who is not valued by her family, given her status as a daughter. After crossing paths with an injured Fafnyr, she vows to help despite her own parents’ doubts, saving the lives of her people in the process.
Later we meet Jamie Pritchett, a young boy tricked into servitude to a horrible pirate. After foiling an attempt to overtake a British payroll ship, Jamie awakes on an island, essentially left for dead by the others. When he stumbles upon Fafnyr’s cave, and is then discovered by the terrifying crew, Fafnyr defends the boy and changes the course of his life.
Lastly, we’re introduced to brother and sister, Hitty and Will. The children have joined their pilot father on a plane trip around the world. When they crash land on a Pacific island, their father is seriously injured. Surprisingly, when the kids encounter the female dragon in the wilderness, she isn’t terribly helpful.
She gives the children medicine for their father’s pain but tells them to use their wits for shelter. The children take her advice to heart, creating a rudimentary camp and tending to their father as best they can. Upon seeing their work, Fafnyr has a change of heart and agrees to spirit the family away, back home.
In gratitude, the children offer Fafnyr a Resting Place, which the reader knows as Drake’s Hill. Here, on Lonely Island, Fafnyr is free to live life without the prying eyes of unkind humans. In the final chapter, we learn the true identity of Hitty and how she’s connected to the children. They are forever connected to the island and to Fafnyr’s story after their summer on Lonely Island.
The Dragon of Lonely Island was a great story and I can see why my son’s Book Buddy loved it as a child. If your young reader enjoys adventure and fantasy, I guarantee they’ll love becoming part of Fafnyr’s world. We already plan to read the sequel, The Return of the Dragon. Expect a review of the follow-up soon!