Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dragon Rider

Biblio Bits Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, translated by Anthea Bell, read by Brendan Fraser, Random House/Listening Library, 2004 (ISBN 9781400090907)

Reading Level/Interest Age Ages 10-12

Genre Fantasy

Format Audio book

Plot Summary
When humans threaten to expand into the desolate north and into dragon country, the dragon Firedrake decides to search for the Rim of Heaven, a place of safety that only the oldest of dragons even remembers hearing about. Sorrel, Firedrake’s brownie companion, goes along for the adventure, though she’s not always happy about the lack of tasty provisions. Ben, a homeless human orphan, joins the mission, and frequently serves as a mediator between the human and non-human worlds. The party of travelers quickly learns that they are not the only ones seeking the Rim of Heaven, and sinister elements are aware of their progress towards that goal. The pace of the story builds toward an action-filled conclusion and the cast of supernatural characters (dwarves, djinns, humunculi, and mapmaking rats, for example) will delight fans of fantasy. Listeners of all ages will appreciate this wild adventure, full of humor, plot twists and unlikely heroes.

Critical Evaluation
This book comes alive through Fraser’s reading: he uses unique and memorable voices that augment the characterizations from the text. This story is a bit lighter than Funke's other works (like The Thief Lord and the Inkworld series), and has engaging chapters that alternate between various angles of the story. This technique creates suspense for the reader, as the action in the different story threads may be deferred for a chapter or so, while we hear about other elements and characters. Funke gives readers/listeners a solid, classic fantasy story, by using elements of humor and excellent character development and relationships to balance the suspenseful plot twists and action.

Reader's Annotation
Looking for a great audio book to take on your next family car trip? Fan of fantasy? Do you like a solid adventure story full of great plot twists and humor? Try this one!

Author Information
Cornelia Funke was born in Germany in 1958. She worked as a social workerand then decided to work as a children's book illustrator. When she became bored with the stories she was illustrating, she decided to start writing stories that would be more interesting to illustrate. In 1996, Dragon Rider was Funke's international debut and was on the New York Times' bestseller list for 78 weeks. Her books have been very popular in the US, and include the books in the Inkworld series and The Thief Lord, both of which are appropriate for tweens. She now resides in Los Angeles, CA with her two children.

Challenge issues
I guess that there are people that might object to anything, but seriously, with this one it's pretty much just a good story----nothing overly mature, rude, no swear words, sex, etc.

Booktalking Ideas
Stressing the relationships part of this book would be the angle I would recommend, something that identifies the interesting cast of characters: from the terrifying djinn, to the tetchy Gilbert Graytail, to the moody but loveable Sorrell. It is a book with a quest and a cast of unlikely heroes, and will have plenty of booktalking bedfellows in the fantasy genre. What is unique here is that Funke includes so much humor in the story, without making it overdone.

Curriculum Ties
This would make a fabulous read-aloud, if you can't get the Fraser reading of it. One fun way to link this to curriculum is with map-making. Gilbert Graytail's map for the travelers includes many colorful areas to indicate regions of danger, safety, cultures, friends and foes. However, he delivers this information to Sorrel and Ben orally; there is no key on the map to remind them of what the various colors mean. Students could draw maps to scale of their school playground, their route to school, or some place like a park or recreation area. With shading, students could indicate social groupings (for example on the playground), geographic features, and farming/industry/business. They could create keys for themselves but have other students guess at what the colors might indicate.

Why this book?
Truly, it is not often that I would recommend the audio version of a story over the book format, but in this case, Brendan Fraser's reading is exemplary. This may be the audio book that we have listened to, as a family, more than any other and each time, it delights us again.


Rockport Public Library owns?

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