Earlier this year, I snagged a copy of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], a middle-grade fantasy by the delightful Stephanie Burgis. I wasn’t able to read it right away, because I wanted to read it with my twelve-year-old son Jackson, who’s a big fan of all things draconic. So once we finished the series we’d been reading together, we started in on this one.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
Aventurine is a brave young dragon ready to explore the world outside of her family’s mountain cave … if only they’d let her leave it. Her family thinks she’s too young to fly on her own, but she’s determined to prove them wrong by capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.
But when that human tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she’s transformed into a puny human without any sharp teeth, fire breath, or claws. Still, she’s the fiercest creature in these mountains — and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate. All she has to do is get to the human city to find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time … won’t she?
I asked Jackson a few questions, starting with, What did you think of the book?
“I give it five thumbs up — no, wait — four talons up, because it’s a dragon!”
What was your favorite part?
“I liked the ending, when the dragons were [spoiler] and [spoiler] and everything.”
What did you think of Aventurine?
“I liked her. She was cool. I liked that she tried to go out of her cage even though her parents said she wasn’t ready, and I liked that she tried to [spoiler] at the end even though everyone told her not to.”
Sounds like you like that she made her own choices, and didn’t let anyone else tell her what to do.What did you think of the other characters, like Silke and Marina and the rest?
“I thought Marina was kind of like what Aventurine might be like if she was older, and Silke was pretty cool and pretty nice.”
Did this book ever make you hungry, too?
“Yes! I wanted to eat a chocolate dragon. (Like a chocolate bunny, only a dragon.) I don’t think I’d like the chili chocolate, though.”
There was one part of the book you were upset about. Could you talk about that a little?
“I didn’t like the part when Aventurine had given up, because it made me feel depressed and angry and scared, and all the negative emotions.”
How did you feel when we read the chapter after that?
[Jackson bounced and waved his arms in excitement to answer this one.]
Who would you recommend this book to?
“Everyone! Especially people who like dragons, chocolate, or very exciting and good stories!”
I tend to agree with Jackson. This was a lot of fun, though perhaps a bit dangerous to my blood sugar. I loved Aventurine’s struggles as a dragon-in-a-human-body, trying to understand and adapt to all of the weirdness that is humanity. I loved her relationships with Silke and Marina.
I saw a twist coming pretty early on, but that didn’t make it any less satisfying. And I suspect it wouldn’t jump out as much to younger readers (or readers who aren’t also authors).
If I had to pick just one word to summarize the book, I’d go with “charming.”