It’s true that teenagers have a lot to deal with.
But not many have to survive on a hostile planet, watch their mother change back into a child, and raise a baby dragon. That’s what 14-year-old Varia has to deal with in Sharon Plumb’s novel for young adults, Draco’s Child.
Varia is part of a group of colonists who left a polluted Earth to live on a distant planet known as The Kettle. Every day is a test of survival, as they struggle to live in a fungus-infested world. One day, the colonists are found by a mysterious being, a star-child named Specto, who promises to help them. But Varia is unsure, especially when everyone, including her mother, starts to physically change. Varia feels that their real salvation will come from the dragon she has secretly raised and named Galatea. But as she begins to go through her own changes, she discovers she must make choices no normal teenager would dream of.
Draco’s Child has a number of layers to it, most of which started with one question.
“What would happen if people started to shrink back into children?” Plumb asks. “In particular, what would it be like to be a young person whose parents were shrinking, so the family roles were reversed? Who would make decisions? Who would take care of whom? And how would it feel?”
Changes, like the physical transformation of the colonists or the decisions and choices that Varia needs to make, are important topics in Plumb’s book. “I see the target audience as teenagers who are changing physically and emotionally,” Plumb says, “and figuring out where they fit in their communities, families, and the world at large.
“Varia’s world is changing all around her, and what she becomes in the end depends on the choices she makes. Growing up is a tumultuous experience, and I think readers of this age will be able to relate to Varia’s dilemmas and the ways she tries to solve them.”
Like the colonists, the planet itself goes through changes, both in the past and thanks to Varia and her community. For Plumb, this became central after she read Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Moulds by George W. Hudler.
“It was fascinating,” she says. “I had no idea before reading it that fungi could transform plants so they look entirely different, or what a crucial role they play in the growth of trees. I realized that fungi were key to what was happening on the planet I had invented.”
Plumb’s central character Varia experiences a lot of change, through her relationships with her community, her family, and the fungi planet. She learns to make difficult choices, and she doesn’t always make the correct choices right away.
Plumb hopes her readers “will come away with the sense that although it can be difficult to make good choices, or even to know what good choices are, it is never too late to recover from mistakes.”
~~~article reprinted with permission from Prairie Books Now.