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Diego's Dragon, Book One: Spirits of the Sun (Volume 1) Paperback – May 9, 2015
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I just got a voluntary book report from a student on Diego's Dragon. He said (in the report) that it was interesting and he liked it, it would make a good movie and he would tell his friends that "it is like the coolest book ever." This was without prompting . . . I swear!
Judy - Librarian - Jefferson Middle School
West needs another couple of autographed copies of Diego's Dragon. We're going to have a raffle with your autographed books, posters and t-shirts! Diego's Dragon is still highly requested in our library! This is best fantasy fiction series we've seen in quite some time.
Julia - Librarian - West Middle School
From the Author
I love writing fantasy adventure novels for young readers. I write stories about what I'd like to do, like fighting alongside a group of giant, talking, magical cats, or having my own amazing dragon. I have a habit of writing my characters into impossible corners at the end of my novels, but somehow they escape and find even greater adventures. It's amazing that I can sit down in front of a computer and trust that the plot will come to me if I let it. So far it always has; and at times the characters take over, telling me where they want their story to go.
I didn't start writing seriously until age 44, call it a mid-life crisis if you will. I'll always remember that day - I stood up at 5:00 and walked into the research institute director's office and quit on the spot. I told him I couldn't sell my life for forty grand a year any longer, that I wanted to do something spectacular with the days I had left. We'd known each other for quite a while so he wished me well and off I went.
It's been a joyous and painful journey. I've just finished my eighth novel - Diego's Dragon, Book Three: Battle at Tenochtitlan. It will come out in December of 2013, and it's a fantastic story. It took a toll on me, though, and many friends have suggested I step away from the grind for a bit. Take it easy, write some fun short stories, just enjoy life for a while.
Think I will, but I'll let you in on a little secret. Once you begin writing fantasy adventure novels for middle grade and YA readers, ideas just keep popping into your head. It's a cool journey, and I've made a lot of kids happy, because they love Diego's and Conor's stories.
Onward! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Diego Ramirez’s life is about to change after he wins a writing contest and receives a beautiful, life-like dragon statue as a prize from a famous author, Nate Sullivan. This statue is quite unique and strange things begin to happen the moment Diego touches it. At first, there are small indications that Magifico (as he is named by Diego) is special; but, Diego’s destiny will be fully revealed when the statue transforms into a gigantic, living and breathing dragon (who is incidentally a little short on patience!)
Adding to the complexity of the situation is Diego’s concern over his brother, Esteban, who is coping poorly with the death of his girlfriend, Marisol. Esteban wanders aimlessly with no home, no friends, and under the haze of an alcoholic-induced stupor, grieving over the loss of his one true love. Plagued by visions of his ancestors’ past and guided by the ill-tempered dragon Magnifico and the mysterious Sullivan, Diego is about to embark on a spiritual journey which will forever change the lives of the ones he loves most.
Diego’s Dragon: Spirits of the Sun is a magical and mystical journey exploring the themes of family, trust, connections to the past, and spirituality. The story features a Hispanic boy as the main character which is a real rarity in the middle grade genre. In fact, the majority of characters, including Diego’s friends and the mysterious author, Nate Sullivan are also Hispanic. The text is also peppered with Spanish words and phrases, making this middle grade novel truly unique. My only complaint is that there was no lexicon included in the back for those of us who know little to no Spanish. Who knew that watching Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go would serve us so well though?
Diego’s Dragon is first and foremost an adventure that will appeal to tween and teen boys and girls alike (there are a few female characters featured in the story). Who doesn’t dream of a mystical creature like a dragon coming to life? Embedded within this adventure is the mystery of Diego’s destiny. The author does a great job of introducing and building intrigue until the climax of the book where we learn that Diego, with the help of the Sol Dragones, must guide the lost souls of his ancestors from limbo toward the afterlife. With this act comes a great sacrifice and an even greater reward. This is all part of the intricate and well laid out plot.
Let me preface what I’m about to say with the following: I did really enjoy reading this captivating and well-written book. However, I do feel I have to mention two things. The book does contain some bad language. I know that different people have different tolerance levels for bad language, but I am quite conservative in this respect. I feel that simple word substitutions would have made no difference to the story. For example, instead of saying “He’s really p*ssed at me this time…”, it easily could have been written as “He’s really ticked at me this time…” and it would not have changed the intent or meaning. It was particularly noticeable because I was reading the book aloud to my children and I had to substitute words on the fly. Regardless, my bottom line with respect to this issue is that the bad language was unnecessary and in fact, I would argue that bad language is unnecessary in middle grade books in general.
*FOR THE RECORD*: This is what my daughter had to say about the bad language: “I think there were way too many bad words especially for kids ten and under. I felt uncomfortably annoyed by the bad words and I wish that they were not in there and I wish that the words that were used were the ones my Mom replaced them with when she read the book.”
The second issue I had was with the recurrent theme of alcoholism. This is a pretty heavy topic for a middle grade crowd. I can see why it was necessary for the story to work, but Esteban’s grief and dejection could have been described in ways other than solely through his heavy drinking and his drunken behavior. I’m not sure that children under the age of 12 (in general) would understand very much about alcoholism. Further, there were frequent descriptions of drinking among the other adults in the story as well. It just felt awkward to be reading to my children how “he let the velvety liquid [port] lie on his tongue for a few seconds, so his taste buds might enjoy each distinct flavor.” It’s a beautiful description in a book for adults, but it felt out of place in a children’s book.
My Bottom Line:
Diego’s Dragon: Spirits of the Sun is a gripping, intrigue-filled adventure featuring a young Hispanic boy as the main protagonist, a beautiful statue that transforms into a real dragon, and a cast of secondary characters who all play a role in helping Diego fulfill his destiny as the Guide who delivers his ancestors into the spirit world. Tweens and teens will enjoy this magical and mystical journey and I recommend this book, with a language warning, to ages 10+.
* I received this book free-of-charge from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.
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I've been seeing this book on lots of blogs lately.Read more