Dragon Masters: Rise of the Earth Dragon
Graham Howells, Illustrator
Scholastic, 2014 90 pgs.
Dragon Masters Series vol. 1
Young Drake is pulled off his family's onion farm by soldiers and taken to serve the king. Once at the castle a wizard named Griffith greets him with a big surprise: Dragons really do exist and Drake, along with three other children, have been chosen to train a dragon for the King's service. The other young people are already ensconced at the castle and introduce their respective dragons, who are all much flashier than the mud color dragon assigned to Drake. He names his charge Worm, a fitting name for this Earth Dragon's personality and appearance, and the two instantly bond. Drake can feel his necklace, given to him by Griffith start to glow when he's around Worm and he gets mysterious telepathic flashes of his new friend's life before capture. When the four young Dragon Masters attempt to leave the castle one night for an adventure, danger strikes in the form of a red orb, which causes the dragons to go mad and the tunnel they are currently escaping from collapse. Drake and Worm use their newly found telepathic powers to help the gang escape, proving that this non-assuming Earth Dragon has more to him than meets the eye. Griffith's reaction to the ominous red orb leaves the readers with a hint of more adventures to come, leading readers to the next installment of the series, which at present contains five volumes.
Scholastic established the Branches line of books in 2013 in order to bridge the gap between early readers and chapter books. The sixteen series in the Branches line all contain short chapters, controlled vocabulary, pictures on every page, linear story lines, and are less than one hundred pages. Best of all they have plot lines and humor that appeal to the intended audience and are attractively designed. This particular series is perfect for children not quite ready for the Magic Tree House, but drawn to fantasy. It will appeal to boys, but will be enjoyed by girls as well. Drake is an unlikely hero that kids will relate to. The reader will immediately connect with him and root for his and Worm's success. Dragons are cool, as are wizards, and kids will want to read this book. The black and white illustrations are excellent, add the story line, and are on every page as promised. A great choice for parents looking to ease their kids into chapter books, older children struggling with reading who need to build confidence, or for grown-ups looking for a short and fun chapter book to read aloud to younger children. This is a series that works to grow readers and although they aren't the most sophisticated books on the planet, they do the intended job very nicely.