You guys, know what’s hard for a mama? When your kids get too old for picture books. It happened a few years ago with Vivi, and now it’s happening with my tiny, little Lily. LILY!
The thing is, she’s going to be six in nineteen days (we have an official countdown going), so I get it. Picture books are so last year (*sob*). Now, before you get as depressed as I am about the situation, it’s important to note that she’s not against ALL picture books. Big-kid picture books are okay. Her current favourite is The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base. (Which, if you haven’t read it, is something you should definitely check out. Graeme Base is an outstanding illustrator and The Eleventh Hour is remarkable. I LOVE the riddles in it, all the hidden messages and pictures…it’s delightful in every way.)
But. At bedtime, she’s asking for something new. A CHAPTER book. Specifically: The Dragon Masters series by Tracey West. Karl read this to Vivi at around the same age, and she also really enjoyed it. I have some…thoughts. Most of them positive!
- The series is a light read. The vocabulary is simple, the plot is simple, the characters are simple…it’s…well…simple. Which is not to say ‘bad,’ in any way. It’s great for the age group it’s written for. Lily could probably read these books mostly independently. She just likes hearing my character voices. Especially the wizards.
- The books aren’t terribly long. They’re full of pictures (black-and-white), and the chapters are only a few pages each. Again, for the age group (or reluctant readers), this is excellent.
- There are a lot of characters to keep track of. I feel like I’ve reached my mental capacity for cast members at this point. We have Rori, Vulcan, Kepri, Ana, Drake, Worm, Heru, Wati, Bo, Shu, Petra, her hydra (I forget its name), Maldred, two good wizards, King Roland, the queen (Rose, I think), Carlos, the lightning dragon, Heru’s mom and dad, and Bob the seagull. That’s. A. Lot. Lily and I both forgot who Bob was from one night to the next. I can’t handle any more character introductions!
- I feel like the characters are all quite nondescript. I once read an awesome Oatmeal comic (shout out to The Oatmeal) about why Bella was so relatable in the Twilight series. He suggested that she’s so generic, she’s like a pair of pants anyone can put on. I think the kid characters in this story are somewhat similar. Other than their vague physical appearances, what do we really know about their backstories, other than a few sparse details? None of them has a distinct voice. They all speak and act pretty much the same, save for Rori’s occasional bad-assery. This only becomes a problem when you’re honestly not sure which kid is which, because there are so many of them.
- The stories can be read out of order or in order…it’s easy to pick up the thread of the story. It’s like the good ol’ BSC (yup, another BSC reference). Each book was a sort-of continuation of the lives of the girls in the club. BUT…if you happened to pick up, I don’t know, #83 before #64, you weren’t totally lost. Because of chapter two, that’s why. In each BSC book, chapter two was dedicated to giving the reader a run-down on how the club worked, who was in the club, and any major recent developments in their lives. (Kristy’s mom married a millionaire! Dawn’s brother moved back to California! Dawn and MaryAnne’s Mom and Dad got married! Jessi still likes ballet! Mallory still sucks!)
- The stories offer just enough suspense to keep Lily interested, but not enough to scare her before bedtime. THAT is really important. I was a bit worried when we started reading the series (despite Vivi’s assurances that it was ‘not scary at all’). But after book one, I knew we were going to be A-okay.
So that’s what we’re reading. We’re up to book seven, and Lily really does like the stories. Will she ask for me to re-read the series over and over, as she has The Princess in Black and The Owl Diaries and Bad Kitty? I’m not sure. But as long as she’s enjoying The Dragon Masters, I will be happy to read them. And sneak in a picture book here and there as well.