[ Overview | Author profile | Focus questions ]
Dragonkeeper is set in ancient China. It tells the tale of a nameless slave girl who rescues the last remaining dragon from the Emperor who has ordered the dragon's death. As they flee for their lives, the dragon, Danzi, gives Ping her name and bestows the care of the dragon stone to her.
With Ping's faithful pet rat Hua, they set off across China, facing many trials, dangers and distractions along the way. Pursued by the evil dragon hunter and concerned about the mystical dragon stone, the trio tries to evade capture. Each member of the party proves their worth and takes on responsibilities that aid the others. Although at times life seems easier without it, Ping becomes increasingly attached to the stone throughout their journey.
This fantasy adventure is an exciting and fascinating read, rich in Chinese history and folklore and suitable for upper primary and lower secondary readers.
Carole Wilkinson was born in England, immigrated to Australia as a teenager and now lives in inner-city Melbourne. After trying a number of jobs, she ended up as a laboratory technician working mainly with blood and brains. Fifteen years later, Carole started writing. She finds the process of researching her books fascinating and sometimes has to force herself to stop the research so that she can start writing. This attention to detail gives her stories a realistic quality. Carole has won several awards and published a number of books as well as writing scripts for both television and planetariums.
Write your own author profile based on Carole Wilkinson's website (http://home.iprimus.com.au/carolew/index.html). You can also read a review of Dragonkeeper at KidsReads.com (http://www.kidsreads.com/reviews/0786855819.asp). Note the different cover for overseas publishing.
Before reading the book
- Why do you think the front cover illustration combines a real-life image and a drawing of a mythical animal? What clues could this give the reader about the nature of this story?
- Read the blurb on the back cover and then consider the following questions.
- What is slavery?
- What do you know about slavery and countries that have had, or still do, condone slavery?
- What do you know about dragons?
- Would you expect this dragon to be vengeful and dangerous to humans?
- What do you think the difference is between a dragon keeper and a dragon hunter and could they work together?
- What do you think the dragon stone looks like and what might its purpose be?
- To support your reading of the book, take time to examine the extra information in the book, including the map at the beginning, and the glossary and pronunciation guide at the end.
During and after reading the book
- How important is a name? How does Ping's attitude to herself, other people and her place in the world change once she has a name? Provide examples such as Ping's feelings when she first hears her name (p 56).
- Is Danzi a true friend to Ping? Consider the different ways he treats her and his reasons for this. Can you identify examples of trust and distrust, encouragement and discouragement and honesty and dishonesty? For instance, on pages 58–61 when Danzi tells Ping he will take her back to Huangling.
- How does the author justify the reasons for Danzi's treatment of Ping, and do you agree? For example, on pages 292–295 Ping decides to leave the Emperor and the easy life he offers to escape with Danzi. However, with the help of Wang Cao, the herbalist, they drug Ping and leave without her.
- What does Danzi look like? As you read, make notes on specific physical features that are described and also consider his mystical capabilities. For example, on pages 96–97 Danzi transforms into a snake and the reader learns that he has large green scales and whiskers.
- Danzi gives Ping many lessons in the form of traditional sayings or proverbs that Ping thinks of as riddles. Make note of these as you read (sticky notes are a good way to keep track of them). There are many examples, such as on page 68, 70, 108, 121 and 143.
- Although Ping's responsibilities grew during her journey, there were times when she did not fulfill them. How does the author demonstrate that this is part of being human? Think of examples that demonstrate that Ping took responsibility for her poor decisions and actions. For example, on page 213 after they have searched Wucheng unsuccessfully for the dragon stone, Ping justifies her reasons for wanting to give up the search and return to the boat.
- Make a note of important stages of the journey, including the settings and the events.