Saturday, February 28, 2015

Night Sky Dragons by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham illustrated by Patrick Benson

I have finally picked up a few books from the 2015 School Magazine Bookshelf selection.  These never disappoint and Night Sky Dragons is no exception.

This is the third book in a series by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham. I adored Mysterious Traveller and Cloud Tea Monkeys by this talented writing team.

For each of these explorations of culture, travellers and the power of the individual, Walker Books have selected a different and wonderful illustrator. Cloud Tea Monkeys was illustrated by Juan Wijngaard, Mysterious Traveller is illustrated by PJ Lynch and now with Night Sky Dragons we have the award winning Patrick Benson.  It is important to mention the illustrations because these books are not quite picture books and not quite novels.  The measure 19cm X 23cm which for me is a perfect size to give these books some prominence in the library collection.

If you enjoy Nigh Sky Dragons you should look for The Kite Fighters, The firework maker's daughter and for an older reader A Single Shard.

The setting for Night Sky Dragons is Medieval Mongolia.  Yazul lives on the silk road in a place of refuge called a han.  "Within the han's high walls travellers and merchant caravans found shelter.  A place to rest and trade. A place of safety, too."  Yazul's father is lord of the han but the loss of his wife has made him aloof and stern.  Yazul finds comfort through his special relationship with his grandfather and the kites they make together but when Yazul shows his latest creation to his father things turn sour.  His father bans the making of more kites and sends Yazul to work as a servant in the kitchens.  One afternoon bandits arrive chasing a small group of traders.  The traders rush into the han minutes ahead of the bandits and the gates are firmly closed but now a siege begins.  The people are trapped inside with no access to water and food supplies that are rapidly disappearing.

How will Yazul, his grandfather and a kite or two save the day?  Will this change the relationship between Yazul and his father?  How does this all connect with the magic of fireworks?  You need to read Night Sky Dragons where all will be revealed.

Kirkus describe this book as dazzling and heartwarming.  You can read the first chapter.

Here is a wonderful description of the bandits :

"The bandits, perhaps fifty or sixty of them, had reined in their horses just beyond the range of arrow-shot.  Fierce men with beards greased into rat-tails, swords sheathed on their backs, bows handing from their saddles, quivers of arrows close to their knees.  They sat silently on their horses, watching, while the dust settled around them.  Then they slowly circled the han, studying it. Looking for its weaknesses."

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