Three-thousand-year-old Miss Drake has arranged to send her dear pet Winnie to The Spriggs Academy, an extraordinary school for humans and magicals alike. Winnie is particularly excited about magic class and having Sir Isaac Newton for science. She’s also making new friends—and frenemies. . . .
When a plot to snatch Winnie from her San Francisco home is uncovered, Miss Drake is ready to use all her cunning and magic to thwart it. Not that feisty Winnie needs the help. . . . As a team, the intrepid duo you first met in A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans is unstoppable!
With equal doses of whimsy and humor, Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder have crafted an enchanting story about true friendship.
Praise for A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarter
• "Yep and Ryder keep the magic coming with their whimsical fantasy, enhanced by Grandpré's sweet drawings. The story positively vibrates with fun." —Kirkus Reviews
• " Lighthearted episodes of unusual school lessons and field trips, illustrated by GrandPré’s winsome spot art, are grounded by Miss Drake’s more serious encounters with the goons...a gratifying development as this buoyant, fantastical series continues."—The Horn Book Review
Praise for A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans
• *“Warm humor, magical mishaps, and the main characters’ budding mutual respect and affection combine to give this opener for a planned series a special shine that will draw readers and leave them impatient for sequels.” —Booklist, Starred
• “The tale is alternately comical, suspenseful and sometimes sweetly emotional.” —Kirkus Reviews
• “Miss Drake’s arch narration and the sharp back-and-forth between the characters create an enchanting story, accented by GrandPré’s whimsical black-and-white spot illustrations.” —Publishers Weekly
• “With a black-and-white spot illustration opening most chapters, an engaging narrator, and a consistently fluid writing style, this title makes a fine dragon choice for readers.” —School Library Journal
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Unless you are willing to keep your pet safe and make your pet smarter, collect stamps instead.
I thought Winnie looked quite fetching in her new uniform and said so.
She drew her eyebrows together in puzzlement. “Fetching?”
“Pretty, winsome--like your name,” I explained.
She plucked at the hem of her blue-and-black plaid skirt. “You don’t think the uniforms are sort of old-fashioned?”
“It speeds up socialization when you can skip criticizing one another’s clothes and can go directly to criticizing one another’s characters,” I said. “Just be grateful you’re not wearing bloomers.”
The wrinkled forehead again. “Bloomers?”
“They were pants girls used to wear in physical education. They made you look like you were wearing a deflated balloon,” I said.
She sighed. “Sometimes I need subtitles when you talk.”
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “The whole point of going to school is to learn enough so you can understand me.”
“I still say subtitles would be easier,” she said, and pointed at the tablet in my hand. “After school, when I come back, I’ll find a translation app for you.”
I raised my tablet out of her reach. “The last time I let you touch my tablet, I got it back full of games.”
Winnie was an impudent little thing. “You need to have more fun. You don’t smile enough. You look beautiful when you smile.”
“A dragon is beautiful simply by being a dragon,” I sniffed. “It should be obvious.”
The corner of Winnie’s mouth crooked up skeptically. “Of course.”
Though it may be unusual for a dragon to have a pet human, I enjoy doing so. I pride myself on training them well.
Sarcasm does not become a pet and I would normally have corrected her attitude, but it was just before her first day at the Spriggs Academy. “Now run along. You don’t want to be late.”
Still she lingered. “I’ll be home before you know it.”
“I’ll count the minutes,” I said drily.
Winnie took me literally, though. “I’ll miss you too.” And she wrapped her arms around as much of me as she could. “This has been the best summer ever.”
I patted her carefully on the back, because naturals are such fragile little things. “It’s been the best summer for me too.”
When she stepped away, I saw that she had hugged me so tightly that my scales had left faint impressions on her cheek. “I put those other games on your tablet so you could play them while I’m gone. I know you’ve been doing them, because I check your scores when you aren’t looking.” She added, “You’re getting better, but you’re not up to my level yet.”
“You’ve got some nerve.” We could definitely use some time apart.
She started to open the door but then turned around. “Will I really be okay at Spriggs?”
It was my turn to misunderstand. Her grandfather Jarvis had been trying to take Winnie away from her mother, Liza. Winnie’s schooling had been haphazard as a result.
“You’re smart,” I assured her. “You’ll fill any gaps in your education in no time, and if you’re having problems, tell me and we’ll hire the best tutors.”
She frowned. “No, I mean I’m a human, but a lot of kids there will be magicals.”
I raised a claw, and to her credit, Winnie didn’t even flinch. Gently, I rubbed out the lines my scales had left on her face. “Spriggs is for both naturals and magicals.” The naturals were usually the children of families who did business with the magicals, and for the last five generations, Spriggs had been preparing both for an oftenunkind world. “And you come from a family famous among magicals.”
She wrinkled her forehead a third time. “What’s my family famous for?”
“Being friends with me, of course,” I said.
She rolled her eyes--at least that was more like her usual self. “Why don’t I just make a sign and wear it?” Her fingers traced the invisible words. “I know Miss Drake.”
“A sensible suggestion,” I said, opening the door with one paw and shoving her outside with the other. “But it’s not in the dress code.”
My apartment is hidden in the mansion’s basement, where my front door opens on what looks like an old, unused storage room.
I listened to Winnie’s steps fade, slow and reluctant at first but then quicker--as if she had finally worked up the courage to face the day.
As I said, I was looking forward to having time alone, but I had much to do before she left our house. I glanced again at the warning that my lawyer and friend, Dylis, had emailed me yesterday.
Now that Winnie’s grandfather Jarvis can’t seek custody of her because her mother is no longer poor, I’ve heard rumors that he’s either hired someone to grab his granddaughter or uncovered something else he can use to get her instead. Stick close to her until I can find out more.
Dylis had moles everywhere, and she claimed that, as a dwarf, she knew good dirt from bad. So I took all her warnings seriously.
I forwarded the email to my foxy friend and computer geek, Reynard, and added the question:
Can you help?
Reynard was at his computer as usual. Naturally.
Do it. Find out who and what I’m up against.
After enlisting one of the cleverest beings I knew, it was time to take the next step.
Jarvis thought he could still pick on Winnie and her mother. He didn’t realize that they had a dragon on their side.
Dragons are the most fun you’ll ever have, and dragons are the most trouble too, especially one as grumpy as Miss Drake. My family has owned her for five generations now, and so far we’d kept her from biting anyone’s head off--at least that we knew about.
I always thought that Great-Aunt Amelia had been making up stories in her letters about Miss Drake, so I didn’t know what to believe when I got her last one. Not only was the dragon real, but my aunt wanted me to take care of her precious pet!
Great-Aunt Amelia was so old that at first I thought she had begun to think her imaginary adventures had actually happened. But when I went to the hidden apartment in the basement,there was Miss Drake--scales, bad temper, and all.
Still, no matter how mean Miss Drake talked, I could always get her to show her marshmallow side. Shetook me flying, and we’d had all sorts of super adventures together. Though I’d only met her a month ago, I felt like we’d been together all my life--maybe because of all the stories Great-Aunt Amelia had written to me.
School’s starting, and I felt really, really bad about leaving Miss Drake all alone in that big old house. What was she going to do without me cheering her up all day?
So make it up to her after school, I told myself. I’d play checkers with her, and I’d even let her win a game for a change.
I climbed the steps from the basement and smelled the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen.
When I entered, I saw Vasilisa taking a tray from the stove. “Good morning, Little Madame.”
Vasilisa was both our cook and our housekeeper. She was about thirty. Her blond hair was in a tight bun at the back of her head, and under her apron she wore a lavender dress with large embroidered red roses along the hem. Miss Drake knew all about her. She said that Vasilisa’s family had worked here for generations.
“Morning,” I said, “and I wish you’d call me Winnie.” A title didn’t feel right for someone who had been living in a trailer two months ago.
Vasilisa didn’t refuse outright. She just smiled patiently. In her own way, she could be almost asstubborn as Miss Drake.
“You are just in time,” Vasilisa said, setting the tray on the kitchen table. “I have just made fresh croissants with Black Forest ham and Gruyère cheese inside.”
On the windowsill was Vasilisa’s doll, half-turned so she could look at the kitchen and the backyard at the same time. When she wasn’t there, she was usually inside a pocket on Vasilisa’s apron.
Taking off her oven mitts, Vasilisa carefully cut off a bit of a croissant. Cheese bubbled and oozed out, and Vasilisa eased a spatula under the piece and slid it onto a small plate. Putting the dish on the windowsill in front of her doll, she said, “Small Doll, Small Doll, you must be hungry.”
Then she took a thimble-size porcelain cup and very carefully poured a couple drops of coffee into it from the pot. Placing the cup by the dish, Vasilisa murmured, “Small Doll, Small Doll, you must be thirsty.”
The doll’s painted eyes suddenly gleamed like diamonds, and the next moment, the piece of croissant and the coffee had disappeared.
“I never get tired of watching her do that,” I said.
“And she never gets tired of watching you--especially since you give her you-know-what.” Vasilisa used the spatula to put another croissant on a dish and held it out to me.
“Thanks.” It was delicious, like all of Vasilisa’s baking and cooking.
It was Vasilisa’s doll that did all the cleaning, dusting, and laundry at night while Vasilisa slept in her room here. A couple of times I tried to stay up long enough to catch the doll at it, but somehow I always fell asleep before that happened.
The doll, though, must have said something to Vasilisa, because one day, she explained, “Little Madame, it is no good peeking. She will never let you see her at work, onlywhen she is at rest and ready for company. There is a time and place for everything, you know?”
I knew by then that the doll ate stuff, so I asked, “Is there anything she especially likes?”
Vasilisa glanced down at her pocket, and then leaned in close to whisper in my ear. “She lovesc-h-o-c-o-l-a‑t-e.”
“Choco--?” I began, when Vasilisa clapped a hand over my mouth. Her fingers smelled a little like flour.
“Shh, never say that word,” Vasilisa warned me. “It won’t last here, because she eats it all. She loves it as much as she loves me and this house.”
I glanced down and thought I saw the doll’s round wooden head poking out of the pocket, painted eyes turned up toward me.
So the next day, I’d gotten a chocolate bar and gone into the kitchen, where Vasilisa was stirring something in a big pot. “Vasilisa, I’ll leave a little gift on the table for her.”
But when I put my hand in my coat pocket, it was empty. “It’s gone.”
Vasilisa added a pinch of pepper to the pot. “No you‑know-what lasts long in this house when she smells it, but it is a good thing you offered it to her. Now she will make your life as sweet as the candy bar you bought her. And if you ever need her wisdom or help, she will give it as freely as the treat you gave her.”
As of this morning, though, I hadn’t needed anything from Small Doll that she wasn’t already doing for me.
Vasilisa handed me a cloth napkin. Embroidered in one corner were three dragons like the weather vane on top of our house. “And now you have both eaten, she will go with you, Little Madame.”
I wiped my mouth and hands. “Why would she want to go to school?” I wasn’t sure what the other kids would say if they saw me with a doll.
Vasilisa shrugged. “Perhaps she is curious.” She raised an eyebrow. “But she is very definite about going. You will do her this kindness, please?”
I thought of all that Vasilisa’s doll did for us. “Sure,” I said.
Vasilisa looked a little nervous as I went to the windowsill. When was the last time she and her doll had been apart?
“I’ll take good care of her,” I promised. I picked up the doll respectfully and put her in my pocket.
Vasilisa put another croissant into a ziplock bag, which she slipped into a nylon bag. It was green with horseshoes on it. “Tell Madame that her lunch is in this bag along with her breakfast.” There was also a red one with stars. “I made your lunch too. Last night I asked Madame what drinks I should pack for you and her, and she said she would tell me, but then she never did. So I put in juice cartons for you both.”
I picked up the lunches. “Sorry. Mom’s got a lot on her mind.”
“And so do you, Little Madame.” Vasilisa dipped her head. “But do not worry. Small Doll will be with you.”
I’d just stepped back into the hallway, when I heard Mom calling from the second floor, “Winnie? Winnie? Where are you?”
“Down here, Mom,” I said.
Mom limped down the steps. “I don’t want either of us to be late today.”
She was wearing riding boots, jeans, and Dad’s old sweater. It was a couple of sizes too big for her, and she had to roll up the sleeves. No matter how many times we had washed it, it still had a big blue splotch. When I was small, I used to keep my eyes on it as he walked through the fields looking for a spot that would inspire him to paint.
She stopped three steps above me, one hand holding up the camera she had bought yesterday. “Say ‘cheese.’ ”
“Cheese.” I stretched up the corners of my mouth as much as I could.
She snapped a picture. “Okay, now that you got that out of your system, how about a real smile?”
“Only if I get one of you,” I said, putting down the lunch bags.
When she took the second picture, she handed me the camera, and I took one of her still on the staircase. “We’ll call this The Lady of the Manor.”
“I don’t feel like one.” Mom limped down the steps, looking around the long hallway with the fancy molding and pictures on the wall. “It still all seems like a dream. Thank you, Aunt Amelia.”
“I wish I’d gotten to meet her,” I said.
Mom pocketed the camera. “I only met her when I was small, so all I remember is that she was a lot of fun. It drove my dad crazy.”
I handed the green bag to Mom. “Here’s your lunch. And for breakfast, there’s a yummy croissant with ham and cheese.”
As Mom took her lunch, she shook her head. “Vasilisa’s a real marvel, isn’t she? She not only cooks but also keeps this big place spotless. It’s almost like magic.”
It is magic, Mom, I thought. It was killing me not to tell Mom about Miss Drake or the oodles of magic around us. But I had promised Miss Drake not to until she decided it was safe to let Mom in on the whole truth.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A most entertaining and enchanting book!