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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*The Ice Dragon* by George R.R. Martin- young readers book review
The Ice Dragon
by George R.R. Martin
Ages 9-12 112 pages Starscape October 2007 Paperback    

Originally published in 1980, The Ice Dragon is most definitely worth rediscovering with today’s young readers. The widely read author of the “A Song of Fire and Ice” series dabbles in everything from epic high fantasy to television and movie screenplays. What people may not know is that he also dabbles in young adult fantasy as well. The musical flow is somewhat similar to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. Both are very good fantasies for young ones to cut their teeth on, but George R.R. Martin delves a little more deeply into the darker side of fantasy and has created a very engaging story for older children with this slim paperback.

Although the book is titled The Ice Dragon, the strangely cold little child Adara shares the spotlight. The rather unusual little girl touches the ice dragon in the winter of her fourth year. Where any sane adult would flee in terror or be frozen by its death-bringing ice breath, Adara is somehow known by the dragon as kin. At five, she is honored with her first ride upon the creature’s back, the tiny girl clinging to the dragon high in the dark, snowy skies without benefit or need of harness or seat. With the coming of her dragon, her world begins to change. Longer, more bitterly icy winters bring tense fears and hunger. Odd, cold little Adara is even further from the closeness of family than she’s ever been, and feared for her strangeness.

Through Adara, we see an ugly yet mostly age-appropriate view of what winter and war can mean to a land and its peoples. She is an emotionally remote little thing, uninvolved in the world around her even when she sees the horrors of the war in the faces closest to her. The broken bodies of the men who hobble slowly past her father’s farm are less important that the dragon. Still, gradually she can’t help but hear, see and even smell the toll taken on the soldiers. The ravages affect everyone around her, and it is through pain of loss that Adara grows, matures and finally learns the joy and intimacies of family groups.

If read with a son or daughter, this poignant reality alone is enough to recommend The Ice Dragon. The accuracy that assaults the senses is stark and painful. Martin paints war in a colorful light, from the rot of soldier’s bodies to the intense fear as the enemy moves closer and closer. It might just be too much for a child younger than ten or twelve, however. The themes and emotions dealt with are extreme, but therein also lies the beauty - and, quite possibly, the tears too.

The illustrations are lovely in their simplicity. Rather than being colorful and high gloss, the artist instead has created beautifully detailed and very specific pictures. Yvonne Gilberts adds to the story but doesn’t take it over; she simply enhances it. A few pictures are just repeated though, lessening some of the joy of young readers. As lovely as the sketched illustrations are, it is a shame that there aren’t more.

Set in a fantasy world with fire dragons and ice dragons, a little girl of seven finds herself in a position to shift the winds of war. Little is glossed over. Here there are horrible and beautiful truths both that give way to wonder and questions. The Ice Dragon is a phenomenal story, with a timeless joy to balance the sadness.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Carolynn Evans/2008 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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