For kids that are too young for the complex "Harry Potter" series, and yet interested in fantasy stories, then Bruce Coville's Magic Shop books might be the thing to hook them up with. Each book is based on a basic premise: a young child with the usual kid problems (home trouble, bullies, crushes, angry teachers, etc) stumble across Mr Elives' Magic Shop, and leave with an unusual purchase that creates more trouble for them, but ultimately teaches them important lessons.
In this case, Jeremy Thatcher escapes two bullies, the resentful nature of his art teacher and the unwanted affections of Mary Lou by ducking into the Magic Shop, where Mr Elives gruffly allows him to take home a strange glistening sphere with a sheet of mysterious instructions - it would seem Jeremy is about to hatch a dragon's egg! With the tiny dragonlet Tiamat born, but growing steadily by the day, Jeremy gains more confidence against the problems in his life, as well as more creative flair with the inspiration that Tiamat magically places in his mind's eye.
Obviously, a baby dragon in the house is not as easy as it sounds, and even though only Jeremy can see her, Tiamat is still able to manipulate circumstances around her with her fiery breath. But Tiamat must eventually return home to her own world, and along with the mysterious, beautiful Miss Priest and Mr Elives, Jeremy participates in the ritual to send her to the "dragon-world". Despite the loss however, Jeremy has found a new outlook on life, had old friendships tested and new ones forged, and come to understand a spiteful teacher better.
With little dashes of real dragon lore mingled in with his own creative liberties, Coville makes the world natural enough for belief to be suspended, although as an older reader, I would dearly like to know more about the Shop, its owner and its associate Miss Priest. Who are they really? How do they pick the children they give gifts to? How does the Shop move around? If he wished, Coville could make these short but sweet stories into something much more deep and interesting.
As I said, the Magic Shop books are great for younger readers, with enough of the every-day troubles to relate to, and enough of the fantasy elements to fire their own imaginations.
Its also worth mentioning that if you're a part of a country that recieves the Great Britain copies of these books, there are some wonderful new covers to behold by the artist Tony Diterlizzi, best know for his illustrations in the "Spiderwick Chronicles", that beautifully capture the children's personalities and their magical companions.
on July 13, 2005
"Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher" was undoubtedly my favorite book as a child...and now, thirteen years after I first read it, it still occupies a special place in my heart. I honestly think that it is one of the best written children's books of the last fifty years; I still read it from time to time, and my old copy is so beat up (the cover fell off long ago) that I'm thinking of buying a new one--hardback this time. It's that good. I'm excited to think that one day I'll be able to read this to my own children. The characters are so well-drawn and believable, and the plot moves along so well, that I'm pretty sure even most adults (though they might not admit it) would be sucked in. This book is perfect for kids who have been introduced to fantasy through Harry Potter; it is, in fact, the book that first introduced me to fantasy all those years ago. I read "The Hobbit" in third grade because Bruce Coville makes a passing reference to it in "Jeremy Thatcher."
This isn't just a story about a boy and his dragon--though, if it were, and told by Coville, it would still be appealing enough for children. It also deals, very effectively, with the issues that Jeremy faces as he enters adolescence--a girl with a crush on him, an inexplicably hostile teacher. Jeremy grows up quite a bit over the course of the story--and Coville is never preachy, as he sometimes (much as I love him) is in other books ("My Teacher Flunked the Planet," anyone?).
This is a fantastic story told by a fantastic writer working at the top of his game. I highly recommend it to anyone.
on February 5, 1999
I read this book aloud with my 9 year old daughter, and she gave it the ultimate compliment: 'I wished it would never end'. I must admit, I did too. A very heartfelt and magical book about friendship. I would recommend it to any parent who likes to read with their kids.
on April 30, 2015
One of my librarian friends highly recommended this book; saying it was one of her favorites from childhood. And so far, most of her reading suggestions have been great reads, so I dove in to this expecting a funny and cute adventure between a boy and his dragon. And while that IS what I got, I can't help but feel a tad confused (but more on that in a second).
A young, artistic sixth grader named Jeremy is just trying to survive school, including avoiding Mary Lou--the girl who has a crush on him, and dealing with a mean art teacher who seems to hate Jeremy for unknown reasons. One day, while trying to escape a gang of bullies, Jeremy comes upon a strange magic shop, where he purchases a beautiful, color changing orb. Said orb turns out to be a dragon's egg, and from then on, Jeremy must take up the task of raising a precocious dragon that, while loyal and loving to Jeremy, causes mischief at every turn, and grows larger by the day. Will Jeremy be able to keep the dragon a secret? And what will he do when he eventually has to let Tiamat go?
First, let's get the good out of the way. This book is actually part of a series, in which all the books revolve around the mysterious magic shop in some way. But apparently, each book can stand well enough on its own that you don't have to have read the others. (Though, I'm now interested to check them out.) Save for the art teacher, the characters are all pretty likeable, especially the dragon, Tiamat, who speaks to Jeremy telepathically, not in words, but in colors and pictures. Said bond ultimately helps inspire Jeremy to make his artwork even better. The idea that there's an alternate realm where magic creatures exist (with the magic shop being the link between the worlds) was interesting, and the ending (which I won't spoil) is both bitter sweet and endearing; a nice lesson in how to let go, but keeping a friend's memories alive in your heart. There's also a picture to accompany each chapter, and although they're drawings, they almost look like photographs, making the illustrations look like someone took a polaroid snapshot of something wondrous.
However, there were a few things that bugged me, and I can't really talk about them without spoiling some things, so read the next section at your own risk.
First off, there's a letter of sorts from the author at the end; talking about how he came to write the book, and he reveals that this story went through over twelve re-writes before he landed on something he was happy with....and to me, I think that's fairly easy to believe, considering how many inconsistencies pop up. Early on, the magic shopkeeper warns Jeremy that keeping the dragon a secret is super important, and there might be dire consequences if anyone finds out. But it's then quickly established that Tiamat is invisible to pretty much everyone. So if that's the case, why would the shopkeeper be so worried about her being discovered? Then later, it turns out Mary Lou is able to see Tiamat too, and it's hinted that Jeremy's dad might be able to see the dragon too (but he writes it off as his imagination). So...just how does this invisibility thing work? Is it only special people who either believe in dragons and/or have big imaginations who can see Tiamat? Or does Tiamat have control over the invisibility and chooses who sees her? Jeremy wonders this for about a minute, and then it's forgotten about, and no clear explanation is ever given.
Then there's the matter of the art teacher. There's an important art contest that Jeremy and his friend want to enter, and at one point, the teacher explains the strict rules of the contest, and he makes it clear these are HIS rules for it.....but earlier in the book, it was clearly stated that he wasn't one of the judges and/or wasn't being allowed to judge the contest. So if he's not even involved in it, what gives him the right to make up the rules? Eventually, we ARE given an explanation as to why he seems to hate Jeremy so much (won't spoil it). I know that in real life, there ARE mean teachers like this, but none the less, every time this guy showed up, I just wanted to jump into the book and punch him in the face. He infuriated me that much.
END OF SPOILERS
I realize this book was written for a younger audience in mind, but none the less, I feel this story should've been longer. (You can finish the whole thing in an afternoon.) It's trying to give off the message of "there's strange and magical things going on all around us all the time, and you just have to be adventurous and look". While I DID come away with that, from a storytelling standpoint, there was just so much stuff left unexplained or extremely vague, that I was left with more questions than answers. Hopefully, the other books in the series explain more of the history of the magic shop and the mysterious characters associated with it (like the librarian in this story). It's just that, as I was reading, it seemed like the author started telling a story, and then anytime he wrote himself into a corner, he'd make up something new on the spot to get around the problem, and then explain it away as "it's magic-just roll with it". But even in a fantasy, you have to establish ground rules from the start, and stick with them, or else the audience won't feel scared or worried when danger happens.
I DID enjoy the book...I just feel it could've been better is all. Maybe I just went in with higher expectations, since a good friend raved about it. The stuff with Jeremy and the dragon was fun, but I think we really needed a longer plot, with a better explanation of how this world works. As it stands, it just makes me shrug and go, "eh, it was okay". It's still a nice romp to read to your kids, and I'm definitely going to check out the other books in the series now.
on May 14, 1999
Jeremy Thatcher doesn't even look back while he is running away from Mary Lou Hutton's "Kiss of Death." So you're not srprised when he finds a street he's unfamiliar with. He walks into a magic shop, hoping to find something to make Mary Lou dissapear. Instead, he finds a ball of swirling colors and buys it. He finds some wierd instructions in the box it came in and decides to try them out. So he hatches a dragon, and with it comes a whole lot of friendship, adventure, and trust. This is an excellent book and I think you would enjoy it.
on August 3, 2001
I initially read this book as a 4th-grader (ahem, that would be ten years ago) and -- embarrassingly -- I still go back to it. This book is gorgeous. Well-drawn characters fuel a truly inspired plot. Even the illustrations are exceptional, and not intrusive, as many children's books illustrations are. And a word to parents: the fantasy is certainly "light" enough that it isn't at all destructive to young minds. Tiamat the dragon really takes the spotlight here -- kids will fall in love.
on February 24, 2004
Sixth grader Jeremy Hatcher never would have found Mr. Elives's Magic Shop, had Freddie the Frog Killer and Howard Morton not been trying to hold him down so Mary Lou Hutton could kiss him. But Jeremy ran as fast as he could, and someone ended up in the mysterious shop. Pretty soon Mr. Elives is showing Jeremy all types of different oddball stuff to purchase, like the Skull of Truth, Chinese Rings, and a Dragon's Egg. And, thanks to Mr. Elives' recommendation, Jeremy ends up leaving the magic shop with his hands full of a beautiful colored Dragon's Egg. Of course, Jeremy thinks that the entire thing is a huge hoax, until the egg hatches, and Jeremy finds himself the proud owner of a beautiful baby dragon, who communicates with him telepathically.
Bruce Coville has created a new series (The Magic Shop Series), which is just perfect for those young fans of J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER, who enjoy the movies, but just can't seem to grasp the books. Coville is the answer to those children. Featuring four books in a series that is perfect for young magic lover's, JENNIFER MURDLEY'S TOAD, JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER, THE MONSTER'S RING, and THE SKULL OF TRUTH. Fans of Coville's previous works will relish in the fantastical journey they will embark on with Jeremy Thatcher, and his lovely new pet. A must-have.
on November 30, 2012
I bought this book for my son when he was young. He hated to read and I was always looking for fun stories he would enjoy. I remember that, when we read this book, he wanted to draw pictures of the story. My mother recently purchased the book for his son because she remembered how much he talked about it. My son is a cartoonist now...this was the first story he loved enough to draw. Its a good book.
on January 3, 2013
During my junior high and early high school days I was obsessed with dragons, to the point that I was picking up anything in our school library with the word "dragon" in the title. This led to me reading some rather bad books and a few rather weird ones, but also introduced me to some wonderful series, such as Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern," Jane Yolen's "Pit Dragons," Patricia Wrede's "Enchanted Forest Chronicles," and Laurence Yep's "Dragon of the Lost Sea." These gems more than made up for a few less-than-stellar reads.
And somewhere along the way I encountered "Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher," a book that has remained close to my heart after all these years. Even after all this time, it remains one of my favorite fantasies.
The titular hero, veterinarian's son Jeremy Thatcher, is on the run from a couple of school bullies when he stumbles into a magic shop, where he purchases an iridescent ball from its crusty proprieter. Said ball comes with instructions... and a claim that the sphere is actually a dragon's egg. Skeptical, Jeremy nonetheless follows said instructions and ends up hatching Tiamut, a baby red dragon with a taste for chicken livers and milk, a penchant for mischief, and a loving devotion to her hatcher. And despite the headaches keeping a growing dragon secret from the world gives Jeremy, he grows to love her in return.
While stated to be part of the "Magic Shop" series, this book stands well enough on its own that reading the others in the series isn't strictly necessary (though I'd love to go back and check the other books out). Most of the characters act realistically given their ages and places in society, and the kids talk like actual kids instead of miniature adults. I particularly liked Mr. Thatcher, a veterenarian who jokes and teases with his son, and Miss Priest, the slightly kooky school librarian who seems to have a link to the magic shop. Jeremy's art teacher seemed to be a bit over-the-top and his reasons for disliking Jeremy were never satisfyingly explained, but I can forgive this. And while the book is quite hilarious at times, what with Tiamut raising havoc at the most inopportune times and Jeremy's dad being something of a joker, it has its touching and poignant moments as well, and even made me tear up close to the end.
I recently found a reprint of this book with a cover illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (of "Spiderwick Chronicles" fame). It sort of makes me wish he had gone as far as to illustrate the rest of the book as well -- the illustrations by Gary Lippincott are passable, but I think this book would have benefited from DiTerlizzi's charming drawings.
For kids who might not be quite old enough yet to appreciate Harry Potter or Inheritance, but still want an enchanting fantasy and/or something with dragons in it, this book is an excellent read. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
on July 20, 2016
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was fun to enter the mystical world of dragons, telepathically communicating with pictures and colors, flying above the world, invisible to those who have no business with dragons.
The real-world problems of schools rang true. Boys and girls learning to be friends, just people with things like books and art in common reminded me of a friend who said she knew when 7th grade boys began to notice girls because they started carrying combs and walking around instead of through puddles.
I saw truth in Jeremy’s despair at being hated by his art teacher (the only subject he liked). I knew many students who put up with many less wonderful aspects of school mostly because of their art or music classes. I also remember a student who complained that I hated him. I finally took him out into the hall where I told him that I did NOT hate him and that no one should hate him because he was a good person. Sometimes we just need to be reassured.
Helpful librarians have also filled my life, and I will end with Miss Priest’s lesson: Nothing you love is ever really lost.