Wings of Fire | Book Review

I read Wings of Fire along with my fourth-grade son’s lunchtime reading group, and the boys loved the story. I hated it…intensely. To split the difference between the boys’ positive opinion of the book and my negative one, I’ve given the book three stars.

Wings of Fire is the first in a series of books by Tui T. Sutherland set in Pyrrhia, the land of seven warring dragon tribes. Three sisters—Burn, Blister, and Blaze—are fighting to succeed their dead mother as queen of the SandWings. This war has spread throughout Pyrrhia, and individual sisters have made alliances with other dragon tribes in order to conquer.

Meanwhile, a prophecy says that five dragonets will establish peace in Pyrrhia, with one of the sisters becoming rightful heir to her mother’s throne. The book opens with these five dragonets in hiding, being trained in warfare and dragon lore. The dragonets names are Clay, Tsunami, Starflight, Glory, and Sunny, each of whom comes from a different tribe.

Like I said above, the boys loved the book, especially the violent action sequences. That’s one of the reasons I disliked the book. To my mind, it’s too graphic for fourth graders. Additionally, I thought the plot was anticlimactic, insofar as it involved the five dragonets, as if Sutherland were just setting up the story for future books, rather than letting each book stand on its own.

Finally, I thought the book’s conclusion—at least as it involved the adult dragons—was incredibly cynical. Basically, the “prophecy” is really cover for one allegedly neutral dragon tribe to push its covert alliance with one of the SandWing sisters. The prophecy isn’t a prophecy, the good guys aren’t good, and the dragonets have been raised to believe they have a destiny, but it’s all just made up for political purposes. Cynical.

So, like I said, I hated the book intensely, but the boys loved it, which is probably why Scholastic keeps cranking out successive volumes in the series.

Book Reviewed
Tui T. Sutherland, Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy (New York: Scholastic, 2013).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.


Captain Nobody | Book Review

Newton Newman—“Newt” to friends and family—is a short, skinny, freckled ten-year-old boy who lives in the shadow of his small-town-famous older brother, Chris. Chris is varsity quarterback of the Ferocious Ferrets of Filmore High School, who, as Captain Nobody begins, face off against their cross-town rivals, the Chargers of Merrimac High, in the annual “big game.” In the opening chapter, Newt watches as his brother simultaneously scores the winning touchdown at the last second, gets a concussion, and goes into a coma as a result of the injury.

Newt may be invisible to most people—a running gag throughout the book is that people are shocked to discover that Chris has a younger brother. And yet, in many ways, he is the grease on his family’s skids, holding things together by cooking everyone breakfast, keeping track of his mom’s scattered real estate files, and in general knowing where everything goes and when. But with Chris in a coma in the hospital, Newt’s invisibility becomes so pronounced that even his parents begin to take him for granted.

But when Halloween rolls around, and Newt’s two friends (Cecil and JJ) encourage him to go trick or treating, he accidentally finds himself dressed in a ragtag of Chris’s clothes that his friends morph into a superhero costume. And thus, Newton Newman becomes Captain Nobody. He helps an old man with Alzheimer’s find his way home. He foils a bank robbery. He clears traffic so a plane can safely land on the highway. And all without intending to. The one superpower Newt doesn’t have is the ability to wake Chris up. Or does he? That’s the question readers wonder as Dean Pitchford writes his way toward the book’s heartwarming conclusion.

I read Captain Nobody along with my fourth-grade son’s lunchtime reading group, and the boys loved the story. It didn’t have the action or creativity of some of the other books we read, but the boys liked Newt and even identified with him a bit. For me, of the three books we read—the other two were Wings of Fire and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—I liked Captain Nobody best. (Well, I liked it alongside Lewis’ classic children’s story. I hated Wings of Fire, though the boys loved it.) I liked it because Newt is a free-range, competent, caring kid who loves his family and holds them together in a difficult time.

Does Chris ever wake up? Read the book to find out.

Puffin Books says the book is appropriate for kids 8–12, grades 3–7. Having read this with fourth-grade boys, I think age 10 and grade 4 is just about right.

Book Reviewed
Dean Pitchford, Captain Nobody (New York: Puffin Books, 2009).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.