The Best Middle Grade Dragons of 2017

2017 was a great year for dragons, both friendly and fearsome. These great dragon books for kids 9-12 are all wildly imaginative and original, and there’s a book here to suit every fantasy loving kid!

Henry and the Chalk Dragon, by Jennifer Trafton
Henry’s the sort of kid who’s always drawing, always imagining. But when his drawing of a dragon comes to life, the adventures he’s imagined become all too real! The dragon shows up at his school, bringing mayhem, mischief, and even a splash of danger as it morphs into elements of Henry’s other fantastical artwork. Fortunately Henry’s up for the challenge of a good quest against a rampaging dragon, and fortunately he has stalwart friends to bolster both his courage and his understanding of the dragon, his classmates, and meaning of creativity. A fun one for the younger middle grade reader, and one that works well as a read-aloud to an even younger kid of 7 or 8.

The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill
Here’s a charming graphic novel for those who like their dragons small and cozy and domesticated! Greta, a young girl with goblin blood, is being trained as a magical blacksmith by her mother, but she’s having trouble concentrating. When she finds a little green dragon with leafy horns, and returns the little creature to its owner (a goat-like personage), she’s introduced to the magic of tea dragons, whose leaves and flowers make magical teas. She’s introduced as well to Minette, a shy girl who has lost most of her memories, who has a tea dragon of her own. As the two learn to tend to the little dragons, finding great joy in carrying on the tea dragon tradition, they make new, wonderful memories together, and Greta goes back to blacksmithing with fresh enthusiasm, ready to make more good memories alongside her mother.

The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me), by Wade Albert White
Anne, Penelope and Hiro, students at Saint Lupin’s Quest Academy for Consistently Dangerous and Absolutely Terrifying Adventures, made it through their first quest in style in The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, but it didn’t leave them anxious for another adventure. A new quest finds them nonetheless, and they have a new challenge—killing the dragon queen. But it’s a twisted sort of quest, since Anne and her friends have no desire to kill the dragon queen, and she doesn’t want to be killed by them either! A half-dragon boy allied with strange Copper knights leads them into trouble, and they must survive the dangerous dragon trials before they can extricate themselves from their unwanted quest. It’s a wild and often humorous ride alongside dragons both friendly and furious.

Darkness of Dragons, by Tui T. Sutherland
This book brings to a close the second Wings of Fire series, and if you have a kid who loves dragons, this is a series you will want to offer them. The ten books in the main story arc tell of young dragons working to end the vicious factional violence that has ripped their world apart for generations. In this tenth installment, Darkstalker, a legendary magic-wielding evil dragon, has returned to threaten the tenuous new peace of the various dragon kingdoms, and it’s up to a ferociously smart young dragon, Qibli, to try to foil him. Though Qibli has no magical powers of his own, he has good friends (one of whom is a dragon enchanter) to help him, and happily for those of us who love these dragons (and there are many of us!), the stage is set for more to come!

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis
Dragons plus chocolate make for a winning combination for readers who love character-driven stories! A restless young dragon girl, Aventurine, leaves the safety of her home in search of adventure, convinced she’s pretty much invincible with her brave dragon fierceness. She isn’t. A puny human transforms her into a human herself with an enchanted cup of hot chocolate. Aventurine is horrified, but desperate for more chocolate, she heads to the nearest town to find it. She has much to learn about being human, but fortunately she soon makes friends with a girl who teaches her many valuable lessons (including about “money”), and she finds a place working at a chocolate house. But the chocolate house is in danger of economic failure, and then the whole town is set on edge when Aventurine’s angry dragon family comes looking for her. It will leave you wanting both chocolate and more books about Aventurine!

A Dragon’s Guide to Making Perfect Wishes, by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder
This is the third book about Miss Drake, an ancient, magical dragon and the girl, Winnie, who she has adopted as her “pet.” Miss Drake has known and loved several generations of Winnie’s family, and when an invitation arrives to a time travel excursion back to the San Francisco World’s Fair of 1915, which Miss Drake visited with Winnie’s great-grandfather, Caleb, the dragon decides to take Winnie to meet her ancestor. The other magical folk making the trip with them hope to solve the mystery of a mysterious stolen jewel. It is no ordinary jewel, and no ordinary theft, as Winnie finds out when the jewel falls into her hands and she has to use its magic to save Miss Drake. These are lovely books about human/dragon friendship, simultaneously comforting and exciting! Though this one stands alone, you’ll want to start with the first, A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans.

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded, by Sage Blackwood
Chantel has always good at the magic part of Miss Ellicott’s curriculum, though the deportment side of things (aka being “shamefast and biddable”) has never come naturally. When her familiar, a snake, morphs into a dragon, she gives up altogether on the biddable part. This proves to be a Good Thing for her city kingdom when the sorceresses who have kept the city safe from the marauders roiling around outside it (some days more densely than others) all disappear. Miss Ellicott herself is one of the vanished, leaving Chantel and her fellow students in a pickle. Thanks to her dragon companion and other old magics, and thanks as well to more mundane, though still powerful young friends (including a Marauder boy), she finds herself putting things to rights very satisfyingly indeed. Her challenges and adventures make for fun, thought-provoking, dragon-filled reading to savor!

Realm Breaker, by Laurie McKay
This is the third book of the Last Dragon Charmer series (the first is Villain Keeper) about a young prince and a young magical girl exiled from their magical homeland to Asheville, North Carolina. There Caden and Brynne must attend a middle school whose principal, Ms. Primrose, is actually a powerful dragon of uncertain temper, presiding over a staff of banished villains. Caden must charm her with his own magical gift to convince her to help foil a truly sinister villain who plans to take over not just the school, but Caden’s home world. Ms. Primrose is a tricky ally, especially since the villains are encouraging her dark side to take over. It’s a very fun series, playfully mixing High Fantasy conventions with the real world of Asheville.

Dragon’s Green, by Scarlett Thomas
Here’s one for the bibliophile who loves stories about kids with magical powers working together to defeat a villain; in a twist, it’s a collection of rare magical books that’s in greatest danger! Each kid finds their own magical object that suits their personality and interests, and they travel through magical portals, meeting witches, wizards, and yes, a dragon, on exciting adventures. Though the dragon is only the star of a single episode, one of the best parts of the book is this truly memorable dragon/princess mini-adventure! And the book as a whole is a fantastic “kids with newly discovered magical powers” story that should delight fans of that subgenre.

Dragonwatch, by Brandon Mull
The adventures begun in Fablehaven continue when siblings Seth and Kendra become the wardens of an ancient dragon sanctuary. Long ago, dragons flew free, wreaking havoc at will, but now they are confined. To Celebrant, the Dragon King, the sanctuaries are prisons, and he’s determined to break free. Seth and Kendra, only 13 and 15 years old, aren’t the oldest and wisest keepers ever, but they do bring unusual magical gifts and experiences to the job. A lost magical scepter might keep Celebrant in check, so they set out to find it on a journey through their magical kingdom (home to many other beings besides the dragons). It’s fun and fascinating, with a truly formidable adversary and Seth’s slightly obnoxious attitude providing just the right amount of tension. Fans of the series will love it, and it’s not a bad place to begin if you haven’t read the earlier books.

Journey to Dragon Island, by Claire Fayers
What makes a journey on board a pirate ship exploring magical islands even more exciting? Dragons! When the good ship Onion arrives at an island ruled by a wizard in a floating castle, Brine, the plucky young girl who discovered a dragon’s egg in her first adventure (Voyage to Magical North), must not only uncover the secrets of the wizard’s rule, but save a whole clutch of baby dragons. And she must do it before a volcano erupts and destroys the whole island. Brine’s a heroine to cheer for, and this page-turning adventure is one to savor.

Embers of Destruction, by J. Scott Savage
In the first two books of this series, Fires of Invention and Gears of Revolution, readers were plunged into a world where formidable, hostile dragons have infested earth. Those humans who survive are either in hiding or enslaved. Trenton and Kallista, raised in an underground city, built a mechanical dragon of their own and took the skies to fight back. In this final book, they discover the truth about the dragons’ origins, but even with more mechanical dragons in their arsenal (with greater firepower than the first) will this knowledge be enough to free humanity from the tyranny of the dragons? Mechanical know-how meets fantasy in this wild adventure!

The Emperor of Mars, by Patrick Samphire
And finally, one of my own favorites, because you really can’t beat ancient dragons on Mars. In this alternate history, set during the Napoleonic Wars, slipways created by dragons connect Earth and Mars, and though the dragons have disappeared, they are not gone. Two kids born on Mars must foil the plot of a megalomaniac determined to use ancient Martian relics to become ruler of the planet, and they must also keep a young dragon, the first hatched in years, from falling into his grasp. It’s a vividly described adventure that’s tremendously exciting! Read the first book, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, to find out how the egg was discovered, and offer both books to any kid with an interest in archaeology and dragons!

What were your young reader’s favorite dragons of 2017?

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