Billy and his friends must set off on a dangerous adventure that will take them to the heart of the Dragon Realm. But can they save the dragon and human worlds from destruction?
Reviewed by Ellie Labbett
Dragon Mountain is a roaring fantasy adventure of finding courage through friendship and refusing to give in to evil. Billy Chan is about to embark upon a summer unlike any other. All the way from California, his parents have sent him deep into the Chinese mountains for a language and culture camp. An entire summer to improve his Mandarin is not a thrilling prospect for the 12-year-old, shadowed by the uneasiness of not being good enough. After a tentative start to camp life, some strange, almost unbelievable things begin to happen… The mountains are alive with an ancient myth, and an age-old prophesy waits for Billy and fellow campmates Ling-Fei, Dylan and Charlotte. The fate of the world rests upon their shoulders, and they must act before it is too late! With an abundance of dragons and battles, Katie and Kevin Tsang have created a firecracker of a novel with as much action as personal growth and learning.
Billy is a wonderful character to observe as he develops. Amidst the awakening of an old legend, we also see the awakening of the protagonist’s own desire for adventure. From timid beginnings when he arrived at Camp Dragon, to gradually flourishing when he finds belonging in a friendship group built on trust and respect. There are moral dilemmas aplenty throughout his journey, and we see a character who will always try to remain loyal and steer his actions in the right direction. Tsang and Tsang present any class teacher with lots of space to debate potential moral decisions, particularly regarding how to balance choices made for the self with those made to benefit others.
Settled within the drama and tension of the story is a great deal of light-hearted humour for children to enjoy. Billy’s friendship group has some hilarious stand out characters who each offer unique perspectives and responses to the predicaments they find themselves in. What makes each child different is partly what makes the group dynamics work so well, and watching the relationships between the four develop is very compelling. Coupled with the anthropomorphic dragons, who are more similar to the friends than one might have first thought, we have quite the sparky team to get behind.
Dragon Mountain is sure to be a winner as a class novel for readers in Year Five and Six. It is an engrossing tale and one that implicitly reassures the reader that what makes us different and unique is what gives us strength. Reading this book would be excellent as a route to writing adventure stories, as well as helping to build up connections to myths within other cultures. The varied backgrounds of each of the four children provide many opportunities to explore personal heritage and our roots throughout the world, weaving a rich network of family histories within the classroom.