Darek is envious of his brother. After all, Clep is only twelve, a mere three years older than he is. It is unfair that Darek has to wait so long to be able to go on a dragonquest of his own. When Clep returns with a Great Blue, the "largest and fiercest of all dragons," Darek's envy becomes stronger. He consoles himself with the thought that one day he, too, will slay a dragon.
But that night, Darek makes a strange discovery. Poking its head out of the beast's pouch is a baby dragon. When the youngster sees Darek, he climbs down from his dead mother and approaches him. The boy takes pity on the dragonling, and offers the traditional enemy of his people a lump of sugar. In so doing, Darek has made a friend, and comes to a decision: to bring the baby, who he names Zantor, to the Valley of the Dragons, where he can be with his own kind. What he discovers when the pair arrive there makes him think that humans just might be wrong about dragons.
Jackie French Koller's Dragonling series is a fantasy that has the right amount of everything: action, adventure, humor, believable characters (human and otherwise). The relationship between Darek and Zantor is a wonderful, eye-opening one from the start: "Darek had been taught all his life to hate and fear dragons, but it was hard to hate such a small one, and an orphan at that...the dragonling came up and nuzzled him."Darek felt in his pocket. There was a small lump of sugar left. He held it out cautiously. The little dragon sniffed it, then the forked tongue flicked out, and it was gone."'Thrrrummmm,' said the little dragon. It was a happy sound. The dragon nuzzled him again."
Black-and-white illustrations by Judith Mitchell capture the essence of the characters, right down to the body language of little Zantor. Kids who like fantasy will love this story, and it might win over some new fans of the genre. A good choice for readers of Tony Abbott's Secrets of Droon series. Ages 7-10.
Recommended by Barbara Karp, Librarian, New York, USA