dragongirl.jpgEleven-year-old Alanna doesn’t care about the long history of conflict between men and dragons. Tender-hearted and stubborn, she refuses to do what her older brother Hamel tells her to do just because it’s sensible. When she finds a baby dragon and a cave full of hatching dragon eggs, she is not frightened. Instead, the orphaned girl empathizes with the motherless newborn dragons. She creates a flame-resistant dragon costume out of her brother’s blacksmithing leathers, and the dragons accept her as one of their own. Enter Sir Cedric the Dragon Slayer, who asks Hamel to show him where the dragons are located. Hamel, seeing this as a way to leave the tedium of blacksmithing behind, agrees. However, when they find the dragons guarding masses of silver, Hamel realizes his mistake as greedy Sir Cedric tries to steal the eggs and kill them. Hamel joins his little sister in her efforts to save the dragons, and Alanna uses her bravery and ingenuity to earn the title of Dragon Girl. By doing this, she also invites her brother to change his own destiny and gives him the opportunity to pursue new dreams.

This is a charming story of two orphans trying to make their way in the world. The characters are fully realized with modern and relatable problems despite the fantasy setting: Alanna misses her father and wishes her brother could still be as playful as he was before he had to become the adult. Hamel has no love for his father’s blacksmith trade, but feels stuck in the role of responsible provider. Readers will enjoy seeing both of them break free of their constraints and root for them as they try to protect the dragons.

The high-contrast, realistic black and white drawings are reminiscent of the old Prince Valiant comic strip and are well suited to Alanna’s story. The dragons are depicted as a species of many variations, some in the traditional European flying ilk and others as land-bound creatures that look more like dinosaurs. With action-filled panels that are easy to follow, this medieval-flavor adventure is sure to appeal of fans of Bone, Mouse Guard, and Broxo, with the added benefit of featuring a girl as its central character. Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley is the first in a projected series.

Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley, vol. 1
by Jeff Weigel
ISBN: 9781449441838
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 7-12

  • Sally

    | she/her Children's Librarian

    Sally Engelfried received her MLIS from San Jose State University in 2013 and has worked as a children’s librarian for Oakland Public Library in California ever since. A longtime graphic novel and comics fan, Sally loves getting great graphic novels into the hands of the kids at her library.

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