October 26, 2011

Dragon Seer's Gift

By Janet McNaughton
HarperCollins Canada
282 pp.
Ages 10+

In Janet McNaughton's Dragon Seer (HarperCollins Canada, 2009), a young slave of the 8th century, Madoca, is chosen as the Dragon Seer, a leader of the Pict people, to care for and learn the secrets of the dragons, threatened by the ravages of the Vikings.  In 21st century Newfoundland, the lone dragon in existence, Hermit, who has waited 112 years for a dragon keeper, is recovered by Gwyn Rae (12) and his sister, Maddie (14), whose ancestors were dragon keepers.

Being the few that can actually see Hermit, Gwyn and Maddie are compelled to keep Hermit a secret as they feed and protect him in their house.  Through archival materials and Hermit's revelations, they learn of the need to break an evil Viking seer's curse that keeps the dragons hidden.  With Gwyn pursuing his ancestry in a Heritage Project, and Maddie learning about ancient tablet weaving, Hermit reveals that the curse will be removed only when the weaving tablets (recently discovered at L'Anse aux Meadows and erroneously attributed to the Vikings) stolen from Madoca are recovered and Gwyn (who is identified as a dragon seer, not just a dragon keeper) can unweave the curse.

McNaughton admirably interweaves the themes of oppression with that of hope, with the people of the past (Picts) and of the present (Gwyn, Maddie, etc.) enduring mistreatment by others (the Vikings and bullies) but still wishing for, maybe even anticipating, a better future.

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