4 out of 4 stars
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When an eleven-year-old savant from Tennessee finds himself on summer break, solitary hobbies keep him companionably entertained and occupied. But while Jake’s enviable cognitive and artistic abilities have made him feel like an outcast, his talent for sketching photorealistic images is unparalleled. Despite possessing an eloquent, polite, and extensive vocabulary, Jake’s voluntary daily verbal contributions are minimal. As Jake takes off on his bicycle to a nearby, mist-cloaked fishing cove, placid waters ripple across an idyllic scene of tranquility, but when his eyes land upon the opposite shore, he beholds a golden-eyed serpent with chameleon-like camouflage reposing upon a pile of moss-covered rocks. He soon discovers the “natural wonder hiding in plain sight” is a dragon named T’Aer Bolun Dakkar, a dragon destined to become his guiding light and lifelong companion. In order to logistically facilitate a constant togetherness, T’Aer activates his ability to shape-shift into a tiny white Chihuahua that follows Jake home as a stray dog named Turbo.
Jake and the dragon/dog possess the ability to communicate telepathically, ideal for a boy who rarely speaks. T’Aer tells him: “I am here to help you become the man you’ll need to be to fulfill the destiny that lies before you… communication is power.” As the story progresses, Jake gains self-confidence, social skills, and a girlfriend, but he also has the “ability to traverse the interdimensional rift” between the living and the dead – allowing him to speak to ghosts with unfinished business.
Jake’s Dragon by Riano D. McFarland is a fantasy novel for all ages. As the debut title in a 3 book series, it introduces readers to the history of dragons and weaves in additional themes of compassion, innovation, military veterans, and eco-conscious considerations. While there are school assignments, bedtimes, and routine activities of daily living, there are also holographic avatars, dreamscape battles, invisibility cloaks, underwater sanctuaries, ancestral lore, and glistening golden tombs of deceased dragon kings!
McFarland’s storytelling ability is pure enchantment. Throughout this 202-page novel, I experienced a trancelike state of wonder and grandeur that engaged my imagination to such an extent that the outside world simply drifted away. Scenes came to life in vivid detail, especially when they depicted dragons with 40-foot wingspans and molten gold in their veins. As Jake joins his dragon on sky rides and transcontinental flight feeds, readers soar up into the aurora borealis and plunge deep into the Atlantic Ocean depths in search of teeming fish meals. It reminded me of the nostalgic sense of magic I felt while watching The NeverEnding Story as a child.
Those who display an effortless ability to socialize sometimes tend to ostracize the gifted. This story also indirectly promotes the healing powers of pet therapy and emotional support animals. As Turbo, the tiny dog, the dragon is able to help Jake come out of his shell, since miniature canines tend to attract a lot of superfluous attention and conversation. He also prevents Jake from having panic attacks and teaches the boy that it is not necessary to humiliate people into submission or to tell them they are wrong, unless it can be done in an ultimately uplifting way. On the flip side, Jake teaches his 100-year-old dragon how to laugh and find holiday joy. While there are mentions of Santa Clause, dog toys, and ATVs, readers will also see phrases like: “salutatory platitudes,” “bureaucratic delays” and “unconscionable disruption.”
There are some violent scenes and malicious villains, but none of the content or language is inappropriate for younger readers. A provoked mother dragon decapitates some sailors and drops a thieving ship captain into the lava of an active volcano after his fleet destroys 2 of her 3 eggs, but mommas are protective that way. Historically, dragons were blamed for droughts and plagues because humans refused to believe their own over-farming practices and unclean living conditions were the true culprits of their dissolving ruin. As a result, dragons were hunted relentlessly and massacred by the tens of thousands, eventually being forced to the edge of extinction by greedy dragoneers. McFarland compares that same cycle of misplaced blame and self-destructive behavior to the modern-day greedy farming corporations that force small, family-owned farms into bankruptcy through acts of malicious intent and attempted arson.
I feel this book would be appropriate for introverts, quiet creative types, leaders, loners, and dreamers. The author strongly promotes an eco-conscious mindset with a nod to the old adage: “only leave footprints behind.” Emphasis is placed upon oceanic preservation and eco-friendly farming practices, and many characters even altruistically donate items to be auctioned off for charity.
I was pleased to see such exceptional and comprehensive editing, as I only encountered a few, subjective formatting concerns throughout. There was absolutely nothing I disliked about the story, and I look forward to reading the next two books in this series, The Rise of the King and Harvest Moon. I enthusiastically award this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Equal parts adorable, thought-provoking, motivating, and illuminating, this imaginative tale proves that you can be as small as a rabbit while exuding the confidence of a lion. If you believe in yourself, positivity will bring possibilities that make the impossible seem plausible. Maybe dragons really do exist…
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