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Review: Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley

Over the last couple of weeks, I started to notice ads for a new summer release, How to Train Your Dragon 2. The first movie, which was released four years ago, was a rousing success. As a librarian, I remember the constant requests for the series of books in which the movie was based on. I also recall a surge in interest in titles about dragons. 

Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley
Written & Illustrated by Jeff Weigel
Andrews McMeel Publishing, $9.99
Agest 8 and up
ISBN 978-1-4494-4183-8 

While there are already plenty of dragon book, a strong new addition is always welcome. So when Dragon Girl landed in my mailbox, I was intrigued. The title looks like it’s a bit of a new direction in the AMP Kids line as well as the beginning of a series. Jeff Weigel writes and illustrates a graphic novel that will appeal to readers who love dragons and are looking for a brisk adventure.

Alanna and her brother Hamel are orphans. Alanna adores her older brother, who is bored by his humdrum life after assuming his father’s place in the local blacksmith shop. When Alanna discovers a cave full of dragon eggs, she knows that she has to keep it a secret from her brother, who just doesn’t appreciate animals the way she does. She creates a fireproof costume so that the dragons will think she is one of them and creates a bond with the dragons in the cave—in particular, one dragon that she later names Griffin. Hamel follows Alanna one day, bringing along a knight who is a well-known dragon slayer. They follow Alanna and discover a secret valley of all sorts of dragons, but the Knight’s greed threatens the serenity of the valley, while an unusual explorer adds some unexpected twists.

The plot is quick and has enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. Don’t assume anyone who is presumed dead is out of the way. (Sounds like a daytime soap opera, right?) Readers will enjoy this adventure, which does a phenomenal job of creating a full story in itself while also setting up the new series. The characters are rich and interesting.

The black and white ink drawings are rich in detail and build a beautiful and intriguing world, although sometimes Alanna looks insipid and the facial expressions are like caricatures.  

Nonetheless, readers will delight in this adventure, and it is a worthwhile addition to a bookshelf or collection. Add this title to your child or student’s summer reading list.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 3 and regularly reviews for SLJ, LMC. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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