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John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien
     

John Ronald's Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien

by Caroline McAlister, Eliza Wheeler
 

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A captivating picture book biography of a boy who imagined a world full of dragons and grew up to be beloved author J. R. R. Tolkien.

John Ronald loved dragons. He liked to imagine dragons when he was alone, and with his friends, and especially when life got hard or sad. After his mother died and he had to live with a cold-hearted aunt, he looked for

Overview

A captivating picture book biography of a boy who imagined a world full of dragons and grew up to be beloved author J. R. R. Tolkien.

John Ronald loved dragons. He liked to imagine dragons when he was alone, and with his friends, and especially when life got hard or sad. After his mother died and he had to live with a cold-hearted aunt, he looked for dragons. He searched for them at his boarding school. And when he fought in a Great War, he felt as if terrible, destructive dragons were everywhere. But he never actually found one, until one day, when he was a grown man but still very much a boy at heart, when he decided to create one of his own. John Ronald's Dragons, a picture book biography by Caroline McAlister and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, introduces the beloved creator of Middle Earth and author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to a new generation of children who see magic in the world around them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/13/2017
The dragons of imagination are always there, but sometimes it takes time for them to breathe fire—that’s what McAlister (Holy Molé!) suggests in this thoughtful look at the creative development of John Ronald, aka J.R.R. Tolkien. Reflecting Ronald’s lifelong preoccupation with dragons, Wheeler’s (This Is Our Baby, Born Today) illustrations blend hints of the fantastical and the mundane—chimney plumes and steam from a young Ronald’s oatmeal mimic the smoke curling from an imagined dragon’s nostrils. McAlister moves briskly through Ronald’s life, touching on the influences of his faith, military service, and education before he hit upon the invention of a hobbit, one who would lead him all the way to “a dragon named Smaug.” It’s an ideal lead-in to family readings of The Hobbit. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Jennifer Mattson, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
02/01/2017
Gr 1–4—McAlister's picture book introduction to the life of J.R.R. Tolkien (whom she calls John Ronald) is written in simple, descriptive language—a fragment to six short sentences per page or spread. ("John Ronald was a boy who loved horses. And trees. And strange sounding words.") Critical to John Ronald's life were the "stillness, beauty, and peace" of the Catholic Church; his love of English (coming up with new languages and using them to write stories); his lifelong school friends who shared his love of literature; and his dreams of dragons and other fantastical creatures that inhabited the books read to him and his brother by their mother, who died when John Ronald was 12. After marrying, then fighting in the trenches during World War I, Tolkien taught at Oxford University, where he gave lectures, went to meetings, tutored students, and "graded many, many, exams." The world of the Hobbit and his adventures, created for Tolkien's own children, became a book in 1937. Wheeler's pencil-detailed paintings in subdued greens and yellows effectively portray Tolkien's quiet life and his ability to imagine magical creatures and places (Misty Mountains, Mirkwood Forest) in the countryside around his home. The appended illustrator's note points out elements in the pictures not mentioned in the text. An author's note offers more sophisticated facts; a bibliography lists Tolkien biographies for adults. VERDICT This beautifully illustrated introduction to Tolkien's life for younger readers fails to provide sufficient information to satisfy those old enough to appreciate the lengthy, in-depth storytelling style of his novels.—Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
2016-11-16
The story of a boy who dreamed of dragons and found a way to bring them to life.Tolkien grows from dapper lad to dapper young man in Wheeler's cleanly drawn scenes as, tucked into views of carefully rendered buildings and landscapes (the illustrator appends lengthy notes), glimpses of scaly figures from treasured old tales or new fancies join evocative curls of smoke and architectural details to hint at the constant presence of dragons in his imagination. An account of his halcyon early days describes his loving mother and good friends and, critically, playing at making up his own language with his cousin. McAlister then tersely carries him through his subsequent unhappy youth, wartime, marriage, and academic career on into Middle Earth and The Hobbit—where at last, deep under the Lonely Mountain, "John Ronald found his dragon." Two portraits of Smaug rearing up in red and golden splendor cap the narrative. A long authorial note plus a catalog of dragons from Tolkien's novels, quotes from his essays, and a bibliography will well serve readers looking for more about the man's life and outlook. It's better written than Alexandra Wallner's 2011 profile, though as a general gateway to Tolkien's realms, the focus on his dragons makes it not so broad. Since the likeliest audience for this is kids who have seen the Hobbit films, it's a good reminder that the book came first. (afterword, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250157430
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
03/21/2017
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
48
Sales rank:
431,072
File size:
38 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Caroline McAlister teaches English at Guildford College and every year takes students to Oxford, England, to study fantasy in the setting where Tolkien lived and wrote. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Eliza Wheeler wrote and illustrated New York Times bestseller Miss Maple's Seeds and enjoys eating Hobbit food and reading Tolkien aloud with her friends. She divides her time between the coast of California and the riverbanks of Wisconsin.


Caroline McAlister teaches English at Guildford College and every year takes students to Oxford, England, to study fantasy in the setting where Tolkien lived and wrote. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Eliza Wheeler grew up in northern Wisconsin in a family of artists, musicians, and teachers. Her picture bookMiss Maple's Seeds debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. Eliza has illustrated several other children's books, including the Newbery Honor Book Doll Bones by Holly Black. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

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