John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien – by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

   John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien – by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, Roaring Brook Press, (9781626720923), 2017.

Format: Hardcover Picture Book

Rating: 1-5:  (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5

Genre: Biography

What did you like about the book? In this admirable, brief introduction to the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, readers will find lovely drawings, insight into how Tolkien’s life experiences were expressed in his beloved stories, and lots of dragons. The text contains a repetitive theme of Tolkien searching for dragons, and according to the illustrator, dragons appear, some evident and some elusive, on every page. Rich imagery supplies additional connections between Tolkien’s life and his books. For instance, the rolling English countryside captures the look and feel of the Shire, the headmaster with his pipe brings to mind Gandalf, and Oxford bears a resemblance to Rivendell. Readers who return for repeat readings will discover more parallels each time. Both the author and illustrator reveal their familiarity and fondness for Tolkien not only in the main portion of the book, but also in their notes containing rich additional information at the end.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  Was Tolkien truly that obsessed with dragons?

To whom would you recommend this book?  This is suitable for the elementary crowd – maybe third grade to fifth – though they are actually a bit young to read Tolkien’s books themselves. The best audience may be adults who loved Tolkien’s stories when they were growing up so they can teach their children about him.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries with large picture book biography collections.

Where would you shelve it?  Shelve with other Picture Book Biographies

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Yes, if you are a Tolkien fan.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Mary Melaugh, Marshall Middle School Library, Billerica, MA

Date of review:  5/3/17

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