Every so often, a series of books comes along which is just so perfect for its intended audience that you find yourself recommending it left, right, and centre. Andy Shepherd’s ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons’ series is one of those rare wonders. I am constantly recommending it to Year 2 teachers or for children aged 6+
Sadly, it is time for the series to come to an end, with this newest title being the final instalment. But to soften the blow, I have a special piece from Andy about one of the key characters in the books – Grandad.
‘Here in Grandad’s garden, the air crackles with magic. In between the runner beans and raspberry bushes, dragons flit. And when I tilt my head upwards to the stars and close my eyes, I see the shining ruby shape of my dragon Flicker.
Here in Grandad’s garden, I am the dragon whisperer. The dragon protector…’
Tomas is a fully-fledged expert dragon grower and protector of the dragon-fruit tree. He has eyes in the back of his head for watching over those sneaky dragons, awesomely fast reflexes for putting out sparks and dodging the diving antics of whirling newly hatched dragons. He’s got it all down pat – and managing his little lightning bolt dragon Zing, too.
But he’s not quite prepared for the adventure that awaits him when a huge secret is revealed about his new friend, Aura. A thrilling secret that will take Tomas and Aura on a journey of discovery that will finally unlock the last mysteries of the dragonfruit tree. A journey of discovery that all the dragons will be in on – and just what will happen when lightning bolt dragon Zing and storm dragon Flicker get together?
‘A Word About Grandad’ by Andy Shepherd, author of ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons’ series.
‘The Boy Who Sang With Dragons’ is out now!
I’m terrible at choosing favourites – of anything. It’s probably why Flicker’s scales can change colour depending on his mood. And you can ask me for my favourite book, but it’ll probably change ten minutes later.
So asking me to choose my favourite character is never going to get very far. For one thing, Lolli barges her way onto the page and makes me laugh so much I couldn’t possibly tell her she’s not my favourite.
But let’s just say I love Grandad as much as Lolli does. He’s a quiet comforting presence in the garden and he deserves a mention.
Here are some of the things he says that make me smile:
‘The world’s not as big as you think,’ Grandad whispered. ‘None of us is as far apart as all that.’
‘Find the kind, and you never know what else you’ll find.’
‘Things are always friendlier with two. Someone clever said that once.’
‘Who?’ I asked.
‘A very small piglet. Friend to a very wise bear.’
‘Who’d have thought it, hey, Chipstick? All that possibility in our little garden.’
Here’s an extract from the book for you to enjoy:
One of the scenes I loved writing was the one where Tomas is in a bit of state about Aura, who has declared herself ‘Queen of the dragons’ and who he thinks might be about to lay claim to the dragon-fruit tree. He’s stuck in the mud, literally. And Grandad gently helps him unstick himself. It’s a little moment that I think sums up Tomas and Grandad’s relationship perfectly.
‘Well, first off, how about you get yourself out of that there mud? Can’t think straight when you’re stuck in a muddy hole.’
I looked down at my wellies. The soles were heavy with clods of thick wet earth.
I let out a groan and tried to shake one clean. But it was sticky stuff and when I lifted the other one, my foot just sank even deeper.
‘You actually need to take a step out of it,’ Grandad said with an encouraging smile. ‘No good noticing what’s wrong and then carrying on stamping up and down in it.’
I took a stride towards him, feeling the cloggy weight of my boots.
‘There now, give them a bash and a scrape while you chew on one of these.’ And he popped a caramel toffee into my mouth. It interrupted my frown and I bit down, ready to taste the creamy toffee. But my taste buds did a little jump in surprise.
‘What flavour’s that?’ I asked through sticky teeth. ‘You tell me,’ he said. I rolled the toffee around my mouth, trying to unravel the taste exploding on my tongue. It was sweet, but also a bit like . . .
‘It’s salty,’ I declared. I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not. I chewed for a bit longer, trying to decide. A butterfly fluttered down and settled on the handle of Grandad’s spade.
He watched it, smiling.
‘Good job we took a breather,’ he said. ‘Else this little fella wouldn’t have had anywhere to rest up.’
Its wings were smoky blue bordered by white, and its antennae twitched as it looked around. I carried on chewing my toffee as I watched it, absent-mindedly stomping my feet.
‘Looks like you’re all unstuck,’ said Grandad.
And the twinkle in his eye made me think that it probably wasn’t just the mud he was talking about. I realised that my thoughts had finally stopped churning.
Inside my head it felt like a fresh gentle breeze had started to blow, clearing the skies and letting me think clearly again.
‘Can I have another one of those toffees?’
‘Anytime you like,’ he said with a wink.
It’s Tomas’s relationship with his Grandad that really shines off the page. There are so many real, relatable moments interspersed with the magic and wonder of the dragons and I think that’s partly what has made this series such a hit: the down-to-earth and the truly magical so perfectly balanced.
I asked ‘dragons’ fan, Benji (aged 8), just what this series meant to him and how he felt about it coming to an end: “I have read all of the boy who grew dragons books twice because I love the character Flicker and the adventures they get up to. I am looking forward to reading the last book. I am sad there are no more books because I really like them. I really wish I had a pet dragon just like Flicker.”
I agree with Benji and am secretly keeping my fingers crossed for a Lolli adventure somewhere down the line and, of course, for Andy Shepherd to release something nee for her fans to enjoy!
*Many thanks to Piccadilly Press for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Make sure you visit the other stops for more exclusive content from Andy*