Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffery

Title: Dragonflight
Author:  Anne McCaffrey
Publisher:  Del Ray
Year:  1968
Pages: 320
Genre:  Fantasy/Science Fiction
Themes:  Survival, Self-Determination
Age Range:  8th Grade and Up

Summary: (from Goodreads)
To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright. 

But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .

The Dragonriders of Pern books were some of the first adult fantasy novels I read.  I had already been through the Narnia books, as well as Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper.  While I certainly had a strong desire to find my own magic wardrobe, none of those other series made me long to be part of a fictional world the way McCaffrey's books did.  To experience the intense psychic bond between dragon and rider, to fly in battle against the devastating Thread, to travel through space and time in an instant-these were things that so greatly appealed to me that I felt it as a physical force when I read these books.  

I am not alone in my worship of the dragonkind as imagined in these books.  Anne McCaffrey, who died earlier this year, had a house full of dragons, many of them  given to her by her adoring fans.  People who, like me, wished they could experience the magic of dragonflight.  McCaffrey's books are for fantasy lovers, but also for lovers of science fiction, because as the series went on and we learned more about the origins of the dragons, we discover that in fact science is at the core of what these books.  McCaffrey merges science fiction with fantasy elements in a way I have not read since.  

From a teacher perspective, these books are likely not something to use as a whole group or small group reading assignment.  But they are certainly books worthy of inclusion in your classroom library.  They may provide a gateway to reading for kids who are looking for a fantastic world to escape to.  And if it affects them anything like it affected me, it will lead them to authors like Tolkien and Asimov and Heinlein and the many fantastical worlds they created.

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