Books for kids...

The Great Dragon Bake Off By Nicola O’Byrne (Bloomsbury, €8.20)
Only dragons with fiercesome and proven reputations for cruelty are admitted to the Ferocious Dragon Academy to study a degree course. 

Flamie Oliver, who is more interested in cooking than in creating dragon havoc, worries that he will not be admitted to study in the academy.

In a desperate bid to improve his image and qualify, he kidnaps Princess Rosewater, but it turns out that he has bitten off more than he can chew — literally. 

She persuades him to cook what should be much daintier dishes than a mere princess, so dainty and tasty that all the other dragons become converts to the new improved dragon diets.

Flamie fails his exams of course, but sets up an academy in conjunction with Princess Rosewater. This bright and colourful book will appeal to age six and upwards.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (Bloomsbury, €9.40) 

The Elsewhere of the title is the next life — heaven presumably, as no baddies are in existence. 

Books for kids...

Death, or passing over, is seen as a new beginning, and so from the moment one arrives it is straight into an indoctrination course. 

Liz is here following a hit-and-run accident and though she does her best to adjust to this new existence, she grieves for her former life, missing her family, friends, pet dog, and even school.

The main difference in the Elsewhere is that she will gradually grow younger, a process which would soon rule out having boyfriends and becoming an adult. 

She does make friends in this new life and finds communication comes naturally to her.

She even has the relatively rare talent of communicating with animals. This an interesting and fresh look at a much discussed subject — what lies out there waiting for us. 

Zevin creates a credible and non-frightening paradise, so close to earth that its inhabitants, for a small fee, can spy on our activities here below.

The story is peppered with humour and, though the present tense narrative becomes a bit wearying, it is necessary as the characters gradually grow younger. Suitable for age 12 and upwards.


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