Snowmobile Challenge, an award-winning young adult novel, was first released in 2003. Judges at the Saskatchewan Book Awards wrote: The sixteen-year-old protagonist in Snowmobile Challenge looks deeply into himself after his best friend, Riley, dies in a snowmobile accident. Brad Klein comes to understand the difference between proving oneself in a race and proving oneself in life.
Now you can read Snowmobile Challenge as an e-book!
“Sharon Plumb’s Draco Child is a powerful debut novel.”
So says Lin Wang in her book review for What If? Magazine. What If? has been publishing top quality teen poetry, fiction, reviews, photos and artwork since February 2003. Their mission is to publish a quality print magazine featuring excellent creative work from Canadians 19 years of age and under. Their website features fiction, reviews, and more.
Note in 2013: What If? magazine appears to have disappeared. But you can read more of Lin Wang’s review at Amazon.com.
Draco’s Child is a young adult novel suitable for grades 6 and up (ages 12 and up). The novel’s themes fit into four of the five Saskatchewan English Language Arts contexts for grades K – 12. These are:
Imaginative and Literary Context (exploring imaginary worlds and possibilities through different genres including fantasy and science fiction): The characters in Draco’s Child live on a distant, somewhat Earth-like planet, and face unforeseen forces that no one they know has ever had to deal with before. They must think creatively and explore all their options carefully to figure out how to survive, and if possible, thrive.
Personal and Philosophical Context (self-concept, self-image, feelings, reflections, influential forces in our lives, ways of thinking and knowing): The main character of Draco’s Child, a young teenage girl named Varia, makes a series of choices that determine who—and what—she becomes. She makes her choices for a variety of reasons, never knowing for sure if she is doing the right thing. Along the way, she considers the value of friendship, of family and community, what it means to grow up and whether she wants to, and how she can tell if someone is trustworthy. She learns that it is never too late to undo, or at least recover from, a bad decision.
Communicative Context (different methods, forms, and issues related to language and communication): Varia faces the usual teenage issues of relating to her parents and her peers. But she faces the added problem of communicating with two very different aliens with very different ideas on what she should do. One, the star child, speaks through images it puts into her mind, but doesn’t seem to be able to read her thoughts in return—or can it? The other is a dragon that speaks a version of English that she teaches it, mixed with words from its own ancestral memory, whose meaning she can only guess. Complicating this further is her feeling that both of them know things they aren’t telling her. Somehow she must find out the truth.
Environmental and Technological Context (nature, animals, earth, sky, space, environmental issues): Varia’s people traveled to their new planet on a spaceship, surrounded by every kind of technology designed to make their trip comfortable and safe. They emerged into a wild, hostile rainforest where any wrong decision could mean the death of them all. To survive, they must study and understand the ecosystem they now live in. A question that becomes increasingly important is whether they can alter the ecosystem to suit their own preferred way of life, or whether they will have to adapt to life on the planet’s terms. A mystery that is solved over the course of the book is why there are no animals on the planet (except the one dragon) and what they can do to bring them back.
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.