Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I have reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book I reviewed for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now focusing on writing reviews and articles, and finding interesting book related news, for this blog. Many of the titles that I will be sharing with you will appeal to adults as well as children. I firmly believe that some of the best writing in the world can be found on the pages of books that were written for young people. I invite you adults to explore these books for yourselves; they will, I am sure, delight and surprise you. I hope what you will find here will make your journey into the world of children's literature more enjoyable. Please visit the Through the Looking Glass Facebook page as well for even more bookish posts

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Appreciate a Dragon with a review of A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans


There are very few dragon-centric stories that are written from the dragon's point of view, which I think is a dreadful injustice. I am sure the reason why dragons are so often portrayed as fearsome beasts is because dragons are so rarely given a voice, a chance to express their views. Thankfully, Laurence Yep and his wife Joanne Ryder (marvelous writers both) have chosen to right this grievous wrong; and about time too. I should say here that Laurence Yep is a true dracophile, and you can read more about him below the review.  
   In today's Appreciate a Dragon book title, I bring you a wonderful title that is funny and sweet. On the pages you will meet a very proper dragon lady who finds herself stuck with a human child who simply does not understand 'how things are supposed to be done.'

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans 
Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder
Illustrated by Mary GrandPre 
Fiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Random House, 2016, 978-0385392310
Miss Drake the dragon has suffered a great loss. Her pet human, Fluffy, has died, and the dragon is grieving. She is considering sleeping for a few decades until she feels less miserable. She is even considering not getting another pet at all. After all, humans are so fragile and they don’t live very long.
   Miss Drake therefore gets rather annoyed when a small human girl barges into her home without having the decency to call or send a note first. The girl is called Winnie, and she is Fluffy’s great-niece. Unfortunately, she has none of Fluffy’s gentle ways and good manners. Winnie is not at all impressed with Miss Drake and her home, and she makes her disappointment quite clear, which is really very shocking. Humans are supposed to look up to, nay even revere, dragons. That is how things are supposed to be done.
   The problem is that Winnie is a very independent child. She has not had an easy life, and it is only since the death of her aunt that her life has become relatively comfortable and stable. Winnie therefore knows how to cope in an unpredictable world and she is not easily impressed. Nor does she automatically give a dragon the respect she is due.
   Miss Drake does her best to get rid of the child, but Winnie, who has heard about the dragon from her great-aunt, refuses to be dismissed. She has a key to Miss Drake’s home (given to her by her aunt) and she waltzes in, expecting Miss Drake to play games with her and serve her tea. Miss Drake begins to realize that she is going to have to take Winnie in hand, whether she likes it or not. For Fluffy’s sake Miss Drake will do her duty no matter how unpleasant it is.
   When Miss Drake tries to sneak out of her back door to go shopping, she finds out that Winne has padlocked the door, and when she tries to use her front door that is padlocked too. Winnie will only free the dragon if Miss Drake asks her to do so. Politely. Gritting her teeth, Miss Drake complies, and then, not knowing what else to do, she takes Winnie shopping with her.
   It turns out that dragons and other magicals living in the San Francisco area have a special shop that they patronize. At the moment the Emporium is located on a cloud above the city, and that is where Miss Drake, with Winnie on her back, goes. After dealing with a few unpleasant magicals who are out to create trouble, Miss Drake and Winnie look around the incredible shop, and Miss Drake buys a few things, including a sketchbook for Winnie. The child is a gifted artist and Miss Drake wants to encourage her. Plus, she hopes having the sketchbook will keep Winnie occupied and out of trouble for a little while at least. Miss Drake never imagines that the sketchbook is going to create a number of very challenging problems, one of which could threaten the whole city of San Francisco.
   In this wonderful story, readers will meet a dragon who unexpectedly acquires a new ‘pet;' a pet that turns out to be a very troublesome creature. However, the dragon does come to appreciate that the girl has some pleasing, even admirable, qualities. Readers will enjoy seeing how the relationship between the two main characters develops, and will be delighted to enter a world where magic is alive and well.

Biography of Laurence Yep:
Yep was born in San Francisco to Yep Gim Lew (Thomas) and Franche. His older brother, Thomas, named him after studying a particular saint in a multicultural neighborhood that consisted of mostly African Americans. Growing up, he often felt torn between U.S. and Chinese culture, and expressed this in many of his books. A great deal of his work involves characters feeling alienated or not fitting into their surroundings and environment, something Yep has struggled with since childhood. Most of his life, he has had the feeling of being out of place, whether because he is the non athlete in his athletic family or because he is Chinese and once lived in Chinatown but does not speak the language. As it says in his autobiography, "I was too American to fit into Chinatown, and too Chinese to fit in anywhere else." As a boy, Yep attended a bilingual school in Chinatown. He attended Marquette University and graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He earned a Ph.D in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
   Laurence Yep's most notable collection of works is the Golden Mountain Chronicles, documenting the fictional Young family from 1849 in China to 1995 in America. Two of the series are Newbery Honor Books, or runners-up for the annual Newbery Medal: Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate. Dragonwings won the Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association in 1995, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. It won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award in 1976, and has been adapted as a play under its original title. Another of the Chronicles, Child of the Owl won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for children's fiction in 1977. The Rainbow People, Yep's collection of short stories based on Chinese folktales and legends, was a Horn Book runner-up in 1989.
   In 2005 the professional children's librarians awarded Yep the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, which recognizes a living author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children". The committee noted that "Yep explores the dilemma of the cultural outsider" with "attention to the complexity and conflict within and across cultures" and it cited four works in particular: Dragonwings, The Rainbow People, The Khan's Daughter, and the autobiographical The Lost Garden.

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