2009 was an excellent year for dragons in children's books!
For younger readers, the dragon highlight of the year was Dragonbreath, by Ursula Vernon. Part graphic book, part straight easy-reader narrative, it's the delightful story of a young dragon child and his underwater adventure (my review).
I've heard good things about the Dragons of Wayward Crescent, an easy reader series, the latest book of which Gruffen, by Chris D'lacey, came out this year. This is high on my list of books to be offered to my younger son.
Moving on to middle grade--
There are two books this year that features princesses nicknamed Meg and their young dragon friends, and I liked both lots-- The Runaway Dragon, by Kate Coombs (my review) and The Dragon of Trelian, by Michelle Knudsen. Both are lightly written (in a pleasantly diverting way). I slightly favor The Runaway Dragon, with its many nods toward fairy tale tropes and its more pronounced humor, but both are excellent books to put into the hands of a young fantasy lover. Particularly if her name is Meg.The Dragons of Ordinary Farm, by Tad Williams and Deborah Beale. A brother and a sister are sent off to spend the summer at their great uncle's farm. They are amazed when they find the farm is anything but ordinary--it is home to all manner of mythical creatures, including dragons...the reader might be less amazed, but fans of Fablehaven should like this one.
And speaking of which, here's Brandon Mull talking about the new book in that series, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary: "I think book 4 is my favorite so far. It might be because I’m a big fan of dragons. To me, they are the coolest, most iconic magical creature. We’ve only seen one dragon in the Fablehaven series so far, briefly, in book 3. Book 4 has lots of dragons, some fun twists and turns, and a bunch of great action." (From an interview at Cool Kids Read).
Dragon Spear, by Jessica Day George, is the third and final book of a series that began with the charming Dragon Slippers. This story takes places on an island far out to sea, where a strange and stunted tribe of dragons is hatching sinister plots. I enjoyed this one quite a bit--so often dragon books have just one Dragon, whereas this series allows them to be social beings, with interesting ramifications and opportunities for draconic characterization. It wraps up the series in a very satisfying way, and is a good read on its own account.
Timothy and the Dragon's Gate, by Adrienne Kress, is a completely different take on dragons. An extremely unlikeable boy, who overuses the word "whatever," finds himself the keeper of a dragon who has been forced to assume human form. Now Timothy has to get the dragon back to China...foiling various bad guys in the process. Fans of Kress' previous book, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, will doubtless be delighted to meet Alex again when she shows up halfway through the book; those of us who haven't read that book might wonder just what is going on.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, is a lovely book, beautifully written and illustrated, and although things Happen, they don't happen in a charging ahead action above all else way. On a quest to save her family from starvation, a young Chinese girl befriends a dragon who longs to be able to fly. But pitted against them is an evil and greedy enemy...(my review).
Kira (Shadow of the Dragon), by Kate O'Hearn, is a draconic adventure of the medievally type. A brave girl and her little sister find themselves fugitives, living in the shadow of a dragon's lair, after their farm is laid waste and their family imprisoned by henchmen of an evil king. But when the oldest sister forms a bond with a baby dragon, and the younger sister begins to develop her own gifts of magic, they might have a chance to save the kingdom. Although this is a fast-paced story about two smart and brave girls (always a good thing), I have a few reservations. The Bad King and his Bad henchman were a bit too bad--they laid the kingdom so very waste that it stretched the limits of my credulity. And I was disturbed by the violence at the end--the little sister, only 8 years old, turns into a ruthless killer, shooting guards right and left and urging the dragon on to kill them.
Spit Fyre, the dragon of Septiums Heap, made another, quite extensive, appearance in Syren, book five of that series, by Angie Sage. I am rather fond of Spit Fyre, especially his suspicion that Marica is his Dragon Mother.
A dragon book I have yet to read is City of Fire, by Laurence Yep, which features dragons and sounds most intriguing. And 2009 saw the release of the fourth book of Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon series--Dragon's Heart (also on my to-be-read list). Incidentally, this is the only Young Adult dragon book I know of--teenagers got zombies and fairies and vampires and lots of other miscellaneous un-alive people.
I'm sure there were lots of dragon picture books too--if anyone has any favorites, please share!
(note: I received review copies of the following books as a result of my participation in the Cybils Awards: Dragon Spear, Timothy and the Dragon's Gate, Where the Mountains Meet the Moon; I received a review copy of Shadow of the Dragon from its publisher, Kane Miller. I've tried to set up the Amazon links to benefit the Cybils, who will, if I did it right, receive any commissions earned).