How To Appreciate a Dragon

Posted by Diana R. Wallach

This Thursday is Dragon Appreciation Day. No seriously, it is. Our country has designated an entire day just to contemplate the wonder of these magical, mythical beasts. And in case you’re caught off guard and utterly unprepared to honor these fire-breathing monsters, I’m about to give you six great books in multiple genres that will present ample time for you to be respectful and reflective on the hallowed holiday.

1. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell: Okay, so I’m starting off with the obvious here. But I have a toddler and we’ve been watching this movie (and its Christmas spin-off) a lot lately, so I couldn’t not mention it. And besides, I think there are a lot of people who don’t realize that these books came before the Dreamworks adaptation.

If you don’t know about Hiccup and his new dragon pet Toothless, you’re missing out. This story, and its many sequels, are adorable. They give a much friendlier take on dragons than you see in most fiction.

2. Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: Oh, Khaleesi, you made a fantasy lover out of me. Admittedly, I prefer my books (and TV shows) to be set in the real world. It’s why I write contemporary fiction. But one episode of Game of Thrones, and I was so hooked by Daenerys Targaryen, mother of dragons, that I got my hands on the book.

I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say Khaleesi (a badass term for ‘queen’) and her dragons have reached feminist icon status. She hatched centuries-old eggs in a funeral pyre and walked out unscathed with her new baby dragons. It’s girl-power at its finest.

3. Eragon by Christopher Paolini: This book was written by a fifteen year-old in Montana. His parents self-published it, scheduled a 135-school/library tour for him, and only then did it draw the attention of Random House. Best. Parents. Ever. In fact, I’d like to hire them.

That said, Eragon is the story of a young farm boy who finds a mysterious stone in the mountains, which later turns out to be a dragon egg. The book spawned several sequels, all of which were huge best sellers. It’s young adult by a young adult.

4. The Paper Bag Princess by Author Robert Munsch and Illustrator Michael Martchenko: Another feminist dragon book (I’m sensing a theme here), only this one is for the younger set. I recently was gifted this book for Thanksgivukkah, and it’s now one of my favorites to read aloud. Trust me, when you’re so inundated with blond royalty that your toddler starts to calling Hollywood actresses “princesses,” you’ll appreciate a book that turns the dragon-princess relationship on its head.

Within the first page, the princess loses her prince, castle, and fancy clothes. Then, rather than wait to be rescued, she tracks down the dragon who attacked her—wearing nothing but a paper bag—and out-smarts the beast to save her prissy, ungrateful future-husband.

Only, the book ends with:

“Ronald,” says Elizabeth, “your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.” They didn’t get married after all.

Score one for Elizabeth.

5. Marvel Comics, Fing Fang Foom, by Stan Lee: I’m just going to come out and say I’m not a reader of comic books, but I know that they are very prevalent in the genre. So if you’re going to appreciate a dragon, you’d be remiss not to look to comics. Thus I did a little online research and chose Fing Fang Foom, not only because he was written by Stan Lee (who I’ve heard of from watching The Big Bang Theory), but because he’s wearing purple shorts.

Seriously, the dragon is wearing purple shorts.

I don’t know why, there might be a serious plot point involving his need for shorts, but I thought it made him awesome enough to be included on this list. Plus, he fights Iron Man and he’s been around since 1961. And given the popularity of the Avenger movies, and the fact the Fing Fang Foom has fought many of the characters, I thought he deserved a shout out. So go put on a pair of purple shorts and honor him.

6. Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken: Not everybody’s fighting dragons in fiction, sometimes, they’re a girl’s best friend. Like in this uber-popular romance novel. But don’t be fooled by the half-naked man on the cover, the book is actually about a female warrior named Annwyl the Bloody. She decapitates soldiers then confesses her feelings to Fearghus the Destroyer, her loyal dragon companion. Don’t worry, this is not a dragon-on-female romance, she falls for the “hard-bodied knight” training her (that’s in the blurb). But before you judge, consider it has 10,000 Goodreads ratings, most of which are four and five stars. How many books can say that?

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of three young adult novels, Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books). In Fall 2013, she will publish Mirror, Mirror, a short-story trilogy based on the Narcissus myth (Buzz Books). She hold a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Follow Diana online:, @dianarwallach, or