Carole Wilkinson is a fine Australian children's author who in her own words "...got a late start, but I’ve been trying to make up for lost time." She has now written 30 plus books, some short stories, a telemovie and some TV and planetarium scripts. Before she commenced writing at age 40 she had worked as a laboratory assistant and also a film and television writer and editor. Her books have been set in China, Egypt, and the Middle East. Her Dragonkeeper series of four books is set in ancient China and has been wonderfully received by children and critics alike. With the fourth book in the series - 'Blood Brothers' - just out, I thought it was time to review this widely acclaimed series. The series started out as a trilogy but has now had a fourth book added. All four books are published by 'Black Dog Books' an imprint of Walker Books. The first three books are set in China in the 1st century BC, while the fourth is set in 325 AD. The books are recommended for readers aged 8+ but I would see them as ideal for children aged 9-14. If children 8-9 are less familiar with fantasy they might find some of the events depicted in the stories confronting. Mind you, 'Harry Potter' has pushed many young readers to new sensitivity 'levels' with fiction.
'Dragonkeeper' - Book 1 (2003)
Ping's perception of dragon's changes with the discovery that the withdrawn and frightened dragon deep in a stone pit has a coloured 'stone' which it protects fiercely, and some strange behaviours. Through the circumstances of the death of the 2nd last dragon and the unexpected arrival of the emperor, Ping escapes with the dragon from her brutal master. A ruthless dragon
hunter pursues them and the girl discovers many secrets about dragons and begins an epic journey across China. Ping carries with them a mysterious stone at the urging of Long Danzi. A stone that must be protected. This is the story of a young ten year-old girl who has been seen as worthless, unnamed and discarded, but who finds within her new strength, courage and abilities beyond her imagination. This is will be necessary to make the perilous journey and eventually, the responsibility of the 'stone' just as it breaks and Long Danzi and Hua leave her for the Isles of the Blessed.
This is a book that drags you along as a reader at a cracking pace. Within just a few pages you are hooked and reluctant to put the book down. It is a piece of wonderful historical fiction and fantasy that will appeal to children aged 9+.
The book has won and been shortlisted for too many awards to mention in full, but these include:
Winner of the 2003 Aurelias Award
Winner of the 2004 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards
Winner of the 2006 KOALA awards
'Garden of the Purple Dragon' (2005)
Once again Carole Wilkinson won a bucket full of awards and nominations for this book, including:
Winner of the 2006 WAYRBA Award
Winner of the 2009 KOALA Awards
Winner of the 2009 KROC Awards
'Dragon Moon' (2007)
The third book in the series has also received many awards. Principal amongst these was winning
2008 Book of the Year in the Younger Readers Category from the Children’s Book Council of Australia. As well, the book was 2008 Winner, of the KROC (Kids Reading Oz Choice) Award (Fiction for Years 7-9).
'Blood Brothers' (2012)
The Dragonkeeper series is brilliant. I'm sure that it will captivate many generations of young readers. The stories will appeal to boys and girls alike and will engage them from the start. One suspects that now Carole Wilkinson has made the decision to turn a trilogy into at least four books, that there might be more as the possible future storylines would seem almost endless.