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Malini Sood

Dragon Rider By Cornelia Funke, Young Zubaan/Scholastic, New Delhi, 2004   East By Edith Pattou, Orlando, Harcourt Inc., Florida, 2003   Perfect By D.M. Quintano; The Mum Detective By Gwyneth Rees, Macmillan Children’s Books, London, 2005   Younguncle Comes to Town; Younguncle in the Himalayas By Vandana Singh, Young Zubaan/Puffin, New Delhi, 2005   The Mediator, 4: Young Blood By Meg Cabot, Macmillan Children’s Books, London, 2001   Children’s books today offer an embarrassment of riches, and probably come in as many genres as adult books. The seven books reviewed here cover the most popular categories: fantasy, young adult (YA), science fiction and future society, teen romance, mystery, and adventure.   ‘Dragons are so freakin’ cool,’ exclaims a young fan reviewing Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider on amazon.com. Most reviews on this site are ecstatic endorsements from dragon lovers of all ages, including parents and grown-ups, giving the book four and a half stars out of five. (Dragon Rider is No. 8 on the New York Times children’s books bestseller list of 2 October 2005.)   Funke, the international bestselling German author of award-winning fantasy novels, The Thief Lord (2002) and Inkheart (2003), has written and illustrated more than forty children’s books in German. Reviewers have compared her books favourably to the Harry Potter series. (She shares the same American and British publishers as J.K. Rowling for her English-language books: Scholastic in the U.S. and The Chicken House in the U.K.). Following the massive success of these two books, Dragon Rider, which is Funke’s first novel (published in Germany in 1997), is now offered in English translation by canny publishers seeking to cash in on the apparently endless hunger for boy-meets-dragon books. And well they should, going by the devoted readership of dragon-themed books like Christopher Paolini’s Eragon (2003) and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Perm series.   Dragon Rider employs the traditional quest structure and archetypes of fantasy fiction—dwarves, elves, dragons, and fabulous creatures of all kinds—to great effect. This is a good old-fashioned ensemble-cast quest involving unlikely travelling companions, who must learn to get along in pursuit of a common goal while fending off a nasty vengeful enemy. When humans threaten to invade the peaceful valley in Scotland where dragons have lived peacefully for centuries, a brave young silver dragon called Firedrake embarks on a dangerous journey to find the Rim of Heaven, a place that may or may not exist, a ...

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