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Summary: The Ameron Valley is the heart of the Goodlands. Freedom, a dragon who lived on a cave nearby, was always happy to help the Valley's residents and his best friend Gilly. But when some of the residents complained about Freedom being too big and too messy, he was asked to stay away. That was good news for the kings of the Badlands, who had been waiting for just-the-right moment to take all that the Goodlands had. When the badland warriors launched their attack late one night, they decided first to trap Freedom in his cave. Gilly heard the noise, but could he get the towns to respond? Thisis a picture book using a dragon as a physical symbol to help explain freedom to kids.
Type of Reading: playtime reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 8 to 10
Interest Level: 4 to 10
Age of Child: Started reading with a 4-year-old child. Also read by the Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™
Young Reader Reaction: Our preschooler loves this book. S/He especially likes the battle and "talking down" the bad guys.
Teen Reviewer: This story emphasizes the role of freedom in preserving our safety, happiness, and success. The characters (particularly Gilly) model friendship, trust, responsibility, initiative, and the importance of speaking out for what is right. Although the plot is very traditional, the narration is friendly and fresh, which makes the story enjoyable for young readers. The illustrations are also very cute and complement the story very well.
Adult Reader Reaction: Although the concepts of good v. evil aren't unusual in children's books, this is a nice twist. In addition to the good townspeople and evil kings in the town next door, you have the abiding friend, teamwork, and acceptance of others opinions (e.g., when Merkas don't want Freedom to come to town anymore).
Pros: Children will like the colorful illustrations and grasp the concepts of friendship and working together. Older children in the target audience will understand the parable concept and what Freedom is.
Cons: Why do we always have to physically attack creatures with swords and spears?
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. The story offers a "concrete" way to introduce the concept of freedom to young audiences.
Educational Themes: The story offers opportunity to build discussions around the concepts of acceptance, greed, good v. evil, what it means to be a responsible citizen (share your voice, participate), friendship, and the greater good.