Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Dragonbreath books k ow kids are genre savvy

 My brother and sister-in-law introduced us to the Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon to show to our son. They are still a bit beyond his reading level but I’ve been reading him a chapter or three a night. We are on book eight and he’s still not bored.

Danny Dragonbreath is a dragon and a fifth grader in a modern suburban town. Mind you, his world is one of anthropomorphic lizards and amphibians which makes him a little less unusual but he’s still a mythological creature in a mundane setting.

Each book has him and his friends go on some kind of adventure that has some kind of supernatural element. Occasionally Danny goes out of his way to find the adventure but the adventure usually find him. 

The tone of the books nicely balanced between comedy and action-drama. Living potato salad, frog ninjas, were-hotdogs and jackalopes are all pretty silly but the situations are still dangerous. There are stakes.

While the books almost never lean on the fourth wall, the characters, particularly Danny are very genre aware. This isn’t because Danny is a mythological creature. It’s because he and his friends have watched a lot of movies and played a lot of video games.

I’m a daddy and I’ve started being a substitute teacher recently. Danny, in particular, talks like a fifth grader. He’s snarky and overly enthusiastic and a bit of an otaku, as well as basically a sweet kid. Ursula Vernon gives kids a character who they can relate to and see in themselves. (Well, okay, Danny is more reckless than most kids I’ve dealt with)

A key element to Danny and the books is that he is a liminal character. He belongs to the mundane world and the mythological world. Being mythological gives him access to some interesting resources (particularly the ability to use the bus system to go to fantastic places) but his pop culture junky tendencies from the mundane world are just as important.

Like I said, our son has really been engaged by these books. He’s familiar with genre archetypes so characters are are very relatable. 

I need to find more books like Dragonbreath.

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