Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cora and the Nurse Dragon (H. L. Burke)

Cora and the Nurse Dragon
H. L. Burke
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Young Cora loves nothing more than dragons, be they the flashy racers or the short-lived little mayflies that go for a few pennies an egg at the pet store. She dreams of becoming a dragon jockey when she grows up, or even finding one of the cat-sized pet dragons hatching from her egg kits, though her dad has funny notions about keeping dragons in cages or terrariums (but, then, he was still a boy when the last of the wild dragons disappeared, so maybe it's an old person thing - where else would a dragon live these days?) Then a fight with Xavier, the spoiled brat son of her dad's boss, leads her to find a strange little dragon egg... an egg that hatches out a dragon unlike any she's seen. He's small and brown and not much to look at, but little Cricket has an odd affinity for dragon eggs - and, under his influence, they hatch out all sorts of wonders, not at all like the mayflies she normally gets. Even as Cora thrills at her discovery, doubts and trouble cloud the horizon. Where did Cricket come from? What kind of dragon is he? And what will happen when grown-ups discover what he can do?

REVIEW: I wavered a bit on the rating for this one. Aimed at a younger audience, Cora's world is a little exaggerated and simplistic, with Cora and her friends (and enemies) sometimes being predictable... but there are some more tangled moralities as the story goes on, particularly among the adults, tangles that younger readers might well miss as most of the action focuses on Cora's level. It also gets somewhat preachy; though the blurb doesn't mention it, this is a Christian story, so there are some rather blatant and obligatory Moral Lessons for Young Children (even though it's not quite so brow-beating on the matter as some such works I've encountered), not to mention an assumption that the reader must also be Christian. Given that, it still managed a few surprises. As for the dragons, they're fun, even if they're sometimes more like scaly puppies than dragons; younger readers will likely enjoy their antics and their interesting colony structure. The story reads fairly quickly, with Cora having to make some tough decisions and do some growing up along the way, especially as she learns that everyone - even her own father - has secret sides to them. The ending felt a little off-kilter for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, and if one thinks too hard the whole plot hinges on a deus ex machina (almost literally), but for the most part it works, at least for a children's story. All in all, it's not bad, but it was just a little too preachy for me to give it a solid Good rating.

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