Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury; March 2007; 336 pp; $16.95 HC
Core Audience: Girls 10+; Dragon lovers; the shoe obsessed
Strengths: Strong saucy girl as central character; unexpected twist on the fairytale genre
Creel hasn’t been dealt the best hand in life. Her mother, a skilled seamstress, and her father, a struggling farmer, have died of a fever leaving her in the hands of a conniving aunt. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her aunt–always looking to work an angle– has decided to sacrifice Creel to the local dragon so that she can be rescued by the prince and the whole extended family can move into the castle once the two are married. After all, this is how it works in a fairytale, right?
Well, there are a couple of problems with this scenario. First, there hasn’t been an actual dragon sighted in the cave near Creel’s village for many years. No one’s really sure he’s there. Second, Creel isn’t the traditional beauty that princes usually go out of their way for. Third, Creel has other ideas about her future, and they don’t involve marrying the pompous local prince and supporting her free-loading family.
It turns out that Creel is a gifted needle-worker in her own right, and she’d like to go to the capitol of the kingdom and seek her fortune there as an artist. But first there is the problem of the Dragon to get over. Creel is smart, and she thinks that perhaps she can talk her way out of the situation and gain a piece of his hoard in the bargain. Well, things don’t go quite as planned. There is a dragon in the cave, but it turns out that he and the other dragons of the kingdom don’t want anything to do with humans. He’d rather stay at home and hoard his favorite object–shoes. (In fact, all of the dragons in this book hoard something unusual… shoes, dogs, stained glass windows…)
Creel is used to making the best of it, so instead of the gold, she convinces the dragon that she will leave and take the prince with her, sparing him the annoyance of a confrontation, if he will give her any pair of shoes from his hoard. She figures that at least she’ll have a good pair of shoes for her journey. Reluctantly the dragon agrees, and Creel’s choice of the simple blue slippers sets in motion a chain of events that will bring her kingdom to the brink of war. As it turns out, these are no ordinary slippers. Then again, Creel is no ordinary fairytale heroine.
Although there’s no shortage of books in the fairytale genre, I really enjoyed this story because of the offbeat choices Jessica Day George makes with he characters, and the well developed personality of Creel. She is spunky without being overly preachy, and smart without being a smartypants. I especially liked the elements of her creativity, and I LOVED the dragons. Very funny, and very likeable. Readers will really invest in these characters, which will make the escalating conflict toward the end of the book all the more compelling.
This is a fun, fast-moving read, and I suspect this may be the start of a series. If it is, I look forward to another fun Creel-ian adventure.