Thursday, December 8, 2022

Dragons of Ember City: Happy Spark Day! by Shane Richardson and Sarah Marino

Ever since Scholastic hit the market with the Branches and then Acorn lines, there has been a spate of beginning chapter graphic novels coming out with varying levels of quality and interest. Simon and Schuster tested the waters with graphic adaptations of some of their most popular series, including Super Turbo, Rider Woofson, and Wrenly, and now they are expanding into stand-alone graphic chapters.

The titular dragons are cute, cartoon creatures with big eyes, with some of them based on dragon mythology and some of them simple cartoon creations. The green dragon, Li, is a lung dragon who flies without wings. The main character, Drake, is an orange, dinosaur-shaped dragon who has no wings and cannot fly. The story is that the young dragons are attending a special ceremony to receive their "spark," their special powers. All is going well and the dragons are ready for the party after the ceremony, when Drake and a frenemy launch a dragon duel and accidentally destroy the special disco ball. However, when the young dragons work together, they create magic and are able to repair the special ball and the party resumes.

The creators are from the animation world and it's easy to see the influence of kids cartoons in the bright colors and slick, digital artwork. The story is, frankly, rather trite and lesson-heavy, like most kids' cartoons, and kids hoping for fantasy-style dragons will be disappointed. However, this will be popular with young children who are fluent readers and beginning readers who will be pleased by anything in a comic format. It's a simpler reading level, but it may also appeal to kids who like Unicorn Diaries and Owl Diaries.

Verdict: If you need more emergent beginning chapters, this is fine as an addition to your shelves. If you have kids who specifically want fantasy dragons, point them to Dragon Masters or Dragons of Wrenly.

ISBN: 9781534475243; Published October 2022 by Aladdin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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