Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review - Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

Short review: A fun, but not particularly noteworthy story about a boy who hatches a dragon's egg and raises a baby dragon.

Jeremy likes art
Then he gets a dragon egg
And learns to like girls

Full review: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher is part of the Magic Shop series of books for young readers. The central character of the story is Jeremy Thatcher, an artistically inclined sixth grader who has the misfortune of being both small for his age and apparently cute enough that Mary Lou Hutton wants to kiss him - a prospect he finds horrifying. Despite his artistic talent, Jeremy is convinced that his art teacher hates him.

While fleeing from the proffered kisses of Mary Lou, Jeremy winds up on a street he doesn't recognize and wanders into the magic shop. Once there, he unknowingly buys a dragon egg, and begins the magical portion of the story. After he gets home, Jeremy finds instructions on how to hatch the egg, and later, how to raise his new baby dragon. Jeremy has to research dragons (with the help of a friendly librarian), come up with food to feed his new charge, and try to keep his new companion a secret.

As with most Magic Shop books, the addition of the dragon is presumably to help Jeremy learn something, but that element of this book seems to be somewhat poorly developed. There is a parallel between Jeremy having to give up on winning a school art contest and having to give up the dragon when it grows too large to continue to keep. There is also a related parallel between learning to love the dragon and learning to accept Mary Lou as something other than a yucky girl. Even so, there seems to be little urgency to the part of the plot.

Overall, there is little urgency in any part of the book. Jeremy's art teacher makes for a weak antagonist, as do the two less than impressive bullies Jeremy has to deal with, a contrast to the scary witch villain from (for example) Jennifer Murdley's Toad. The portions of the book that deal with Jeremy raising a dragon, and his joy in producing art are very good, but the book seems somehow incomplete, like only half of the story was written.

In the end, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher feels like it is half of a really good book. As a result, what is written is quite good, but left me frustrated and wanting the other half.

Previous book in the series: The Monster's Ring
Subsequent book in the series: Jennifer Murdley's Toad

1992 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

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  1. You give me hope. People still read. Yahooooo.


  2. I really love that you're reviewing these kids' books! Makes me very nostalgic!

  3. @Anne: I don't read nearly as much as I would like to, but I do my best.

  4. @Julia Rachel Barrett: I've said before that I was a little older than Coville's target age range before he started turning out books, so I have read these all as an adult. This means I don't have fond childhood memories of the books, but they hold up pretty well nonetheless.

  5. I totally disagree with your comments above. I teach and have read this book to 6-8 year olds and they sit mesmerised. It deals with issues the children can relate to in the schoolyard and combines it with fantasy appealing to both the boys and girls. The Magic Shop books have often been the book that has engaged my non-readers and inspired them to find other books they are interested in.

  6. @Jenny B: The Magic Shop books as a whole are quite good. I simply found Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher to be weaker than the others, and given the standard established by books like Jennifer Murdley's Toad it comes up short.