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First off, I have to mention, that dooyoo's picture of this book is completely wrong, which is a shame. Of course we are always told never to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I would disregard that advice. The cover of this book is the first that thing that will draw any reader in, and it is beautiful. The paper is thick and smooth and printed to look like a red leather covering, with a circle in the middle which displays a lovely illustration of a dragon in flight. This circle is surrounded by three glass gemstones and text both in English and the language of the dragons. Encircling this illustration is a stunning red dragon embossed into the cover. This dragon is raised, so that children can run their fingers over it, feeling the dragon, or lay a paper across it and make a rubbing. Best of all though, it is made of a foil type material, which if tilted toward the light right will reflect a flame like glow. Finally we have a Celtic design in another circle like a great seal. The overall impression is magical and well suited to this book.
Inside the book we find several pages telling us all about dragons. The first set mentions other animals once thought to be myths that are now known to be real. There is a scientific explanation of how dragons fly and breathe fire, involving methane gas, a map of the world with locations of dragons, detailed descriptions of various types of dragons, the life cycle of dragons, their natural history and behaviour. After this we receive all sorts of advice for the study of dragons and finally a history of dragonologists and dragon slayers. the entire book is presented in a journal like format, meant to be the records of a dragonologist, Ernest Drake.
This book sells for £11.51 new and delivered from Amazon, although as usual I waited for an amazon Warehouse deal. This sounds like quite a lot for 32 page book, but there is much more to this book than one would expect from the number of pages. There are several flaps to lift, textures to feel and mini books attached to the main pages giving you far more material than one would expect for so few pages. Each page is a double layered card as well, making this a very sturdy book, which for the most part is quite suited to little hands. There are however a couple of attached envelopes which could be torn, a and letters which go inside of these. A paperback version is available for far less, but I am not all certain if it includes all the pull outs and textures, and without these, it really would be missing something.
My sons are ages 4 and 8, but they do still love to touch and feel things, and are fascinated by different textures. This makes this book especially valuable to them, as they love feeling the different types of dragon skin ( although one is remarkably like textured wall paper, and the soft see through pouch of dragon dust ( glitter). They enjoyed the wee code book for the dragons alphabet as well and both really enjoyed reading about the differences between the way dragons are regarded in Eastern countries as compared to western countries. My youngest does know that dragons are not real, but he so wants them to be real, that he imagines another world or dimension where dragons live and this is the perfect encouragement for his fantasies.
My husband did have a few complaints about the book. He felt is might be confusing for dragons to be discussed as if they really exist, but an older child will certainly recognise that these are mythological, and if a child is young enough to believe, I see no harm done. Additionally much of the information on scientific method for studying dragons would apply to other subjects as well. Barring the flame proof covering the advice for studying dragons in the wild would apply to the study of most wild animals, and the importance of making observations over several days and recording everything certainly has some value.
I loved the map of the world showing the locations of different types of dragons and introducing us very briefly to the folk lore of these regions. Of course there is little real educational value in knowing where the Oriental dragon resides, but it can be helpful to learn where to find China, Greenland and Guatemala on a map. Sadly, although Honk Kong is mentioned, it isn't labelled. However a quick search on Google showed us how to find it, and I do feel that this has some value in learning basic geography.
I would also note that this book has encouraged them to seek out learn quite a bit more about eastern mythology and folklore regarding dragons, which has in turn led to a curiosity about China, which has led me to buy books on the country as well as one on Chinese writing. additionally, the whole thing of methane gas being lighter than air quite fascinated my youngest, and we ended up bringing out old books on Zeppelins, and ordering and reading books on the states of matter, solid, liquid and gas. So while the educational value of this book may be limited, it has certainly sparked an interest in several highly educational topics.
We didn't buy this book to teach science though, or geography. I didn't even buy it to encourage literacy - I could find far cheaper books for that purpose. I bought this book simply because it a real pleasure to read, and a book the children are delighted to own. Beautiful tomes like this certainly encourage a child to take pride of ownership in books and to handle them properly, but they also makes books the ideal place to turn for entertainment on a cold and rainy day.
After buying this book we have since bought a number of other Dragonology books. We have bought a collection of four short choose your adventure books, as well as the first volume in as series of chapter book stories about children who study, and frequently help dragons. This book makes the ideal companion to the other books, and I have even ordered a board game as a birthday gift for my youngest son.
When they were younger both my daughters were fascinated by dragons, as a lot of children are. They had several illustrated storybooks about dragons, which they enjoyed, but Dragonology captivated them in a way that none of the other books had. The reason it became such a firm favourite was because of its unique style. It is written in the form of a text book/journal purporting to be the research of a famous 'dragonologist' by the name of Ernest Drake. It is packed full of interesting 'facts' that are bound to intrigue any dragon fan. I think the book is aimed at junior school aged children, i.e. those who still have a love of dragons but realise they aren't real. Children of this age will love the tongue-in-cheek style of the book, which presents the study of dragons as if it was a legitimate science with its huge collection of sketches, diagrams, charts, maps and dragon skin samples. You can almost forget that dragons are mythical creatures when you start exploring this book and it stimulates the child's imagination more than any straightforward story could. This book will teach a child about the difference between serpents and dragons, the many species (where they live, what they eat, how they attack, etc), dragon behaviour, dragon physiology, how to track dragons, useful spells and charms and even a collection of 'riddles to pacify angry dragons.' It certainly inspired my children to produce a wide range of artwork and creative writing of their own.
You only have to look at the front cover to realise this is a beautiful book. The sturdy, red cover features a painting of a flying, green dragon in a circular frame, which looks like an ancient plaque and is studded with three lovely green jewels. The title Dragonology is written in silver italic script and there is also a large engraving of a dragon, which feels gorgeous to touch and trace with your fingers. The book reminded me of a spell book. It feels big and sturdy in your hands and instantly makes you think of magic and fantasy. It would look stunning on any child's bookshelf.
Inside the book the artwork is no less impressive. Large, attractive paintings of dragons in a variety of colours are included. My daughters particularly loved the picture on the last page of the book, which is a close up of the face of a dragon, which has a huge silver jewel for an eye. It is a very detailed picture and you can see the scales and teeth very clearly. Each page of the book contains a high degree of information and there are additional flaps and pockets to explore, which provide yet more dragon facts. For instance, the section on the life cycle of a dragon contains illustrations of four dragon eggs where the child can lift the flap to look inside at the different stages of development. The pages of the book have a parchment-like look, as if it was written a long time ago.
When I bought this book, one of my daughters was about 10 and the other was about 6. My eldest daughter was a competent reader, but she still found it hard work sometimes to read a book from start to finish. This book, however, is the kind that can be dipped in and out of. She was able to pick it up and read a section, whenever she wished. Because of the enormous amount of detail on each page, she would learn something without having to spend a long time reading. My younger daughter was not able to read it independently, but she responded excitedly to the illustrations and also to the tactile features of the book. For instance, there are samples of 'dragon skin', that a child can touch and samples of 'dragon dust' - "this substance may be collected from the cave walls around the nests of breeding mothers." My children loved these aspects of the book. These interactive qualities make it a delightful book to read to your children. The pictures are so rich in detail and will stimulate lots of discussion. You can ask young children to spot things in the picture and ask them questions, such as, "can you count this dragon's teeth?" or "how many horns does it have?" or "what colour is this dragon?"
No doubt some people might wonder why anyone would want to give a child a book that devotes so much time to teaching them all there is to know about something that doesn't exist. However, I think this is to miss the point. The faux-scientific style of this book actually encourages children to be more thorough and methodical in relation to other subjects they might want to research. For instance, this book teaches the importance of in-depth study, accurate record keeping, clear labelling of diagrams and testing a hypothesis. Like the mythical dragonologist, Ernest Drake, children will learn to take pride in the things they study and to leave no stone unturned in their quest to find out about the things that interest them.
Although dealing with a fictional subject, the book also touches on areas of real scientific importance. For instance, in the introduction when it discusses the fact that people are sceptical about the existence of dragons, it speaks about the duck billed platypus and how scientists didn't believe in that either when they first heard of it. An egg-laying mammal which had the beak and webbed feet of a duck seemed as unlikely as a dragon breathing fire! Charles Darwin's Origins of the Species is also referred to in the context of dragons (like other creatures) evolving to exploit the habitats where they live. In another section on the physiology of dragons, children can lift a series of flaps to see the exterior of a dragon, followed by the muscle structure and then the skeletal structure. This familiarises them with the names for the various bones - femur, tibia, fibula etc. One part of the book my daughters enjoyed is the part which talks about flight. It compares dragons to bees, which are another species that, according to the laws of flight, should not be able to fly but can. So, although in one sense it is a totally fictional book, it uses fiction to introduce a child to some interesting scientific concepts. I found this a really clever, innovative feature.
Would I recommend it?
Definitely. It is a book, which stimulates a child's imagination and creativity but also introduces them to scientific methods. It is ideal for a child (from about the age of 8) to read independently, or for younger children to look at with an adult and it always encouraged a lot of discussion at our house. I accept that some of the pictures might be a bit scary and I would not recommend getting this for a child unless you know that the child is absolutely crazy about dragons. However, if they are, they will love it. This book can be obtained new from sellers at Amazon from £8.73 with used copies starting at £4.97.