About the Book
Title: Diego’s Dragon, Book 1: Spirits of the Sun | Author: Kevin Gerard | Publication Date: September 30, 2011 | Publisher: Crying Cougar Press | Pages: 186 | Recommended Ages: 8+
Summary: An eleven-year-old Latino boy wins a district-wide writing contest for sixth graders. When an author visits his school to award his prize, Diego Ramirez has no idea how much his life is about to change. Nathan Sullivan hands Diego his statue, a handsome, glistening black dragon. He shakes his hand and leaves him to his friends. The students crowd around Diego, asking for permission to hold it.
After hearing the name Magnifico spoken aloud by family and friends, Diego awards it to his new dragon. If he only knew how fitting the name was, he might have known what lay ahead. Magnifico is the leader of the Sol Dragones, dragons that live within the magical fires of the sun. Nathan Sullivan is the earth’s connection to the mysterious creatures. It is his task to find Magnifico’s guide.
As Magnifico comes to life he becomes quite mischievous, playing tricks on Diego to embarrass him. As he discovers his bloodline, however, Diego assumes greater control over his dragon and his destiny. In the climactic journey, he frees his people and suffers a terrible loss by guiding Magnifico to their goal.
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My Thoughts: Diego Ramirez’s life is about to change after he wins a writing contest and receives a beautiful, life-like dragon statue as a prize from a famous author, Nate Sullivan. This statue is quite unique and strange things begin to happen the moment Diego touches it. At first, there are small indications that Magifico (as he is named by Diego) is special; but, Diego’s destiny will be fully revealed when the statue transforms into a gigantic, living and breathing dragon (who is incidentally a little short on patience!)
Adding to the complexity of the situation is Diego’s concern over his brother, Esteban, who is coping poorly with the death of his girlfriend, Marisol. Esteban wanders aimlessly with no home, no friends, and under the haze of an alcoholic-induced stupor, grieving over the loss of his one true love. Plagued by visions of his ancestors’ past and guided by the ill-tempered dragon Magnifico and the mysterious Sullivan, Diego is about to embark on a spiritual journey which will forever change the lives of the ones he loves most.
Diego’s Dragon: Spirits of the Sun is a magical and mystical journey exploring the themes of family, trust, connections to the past, and spirituality. The story features a Hispanic boy as the main character which is a real rarity in the middle grade genre. In fact, the majority of characters, including Diego’s friends and the mysterious author, Nate Sullivan are also Hispanic. The text is also peppered with Spanish words and phrases, making this middle grade novel truly unique. My only complaint is that there was no lexicon included in the back for those of us who know little to no Spanish. Who knew that watching Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go would serve us so well though?
Diego’s Dragon is first and foremost an adventure that will appeal to tween and teen boys and girls alike (there are a few female characters featured in the story). Who doesn’t dream of a mystical creature like a dragon coming to life? Embedded within this adventure is the mystery of Diego’s destiny. The author does a great job of introducing and building intrigue until the climax of the book where we learn that Diego, with the help of the Sol Dragones, must guide the lost souls of his ancestors from limbo toward the afterlife. With this act comes a great sacrifice and an even greater reward. This is all part of the intricate and well laid out plot.
Let me preface what I’m about to say with the following: I did really enjoy reading this captivating and well-written book. However, I do feel I have to mention two things. The book does contain some bad language. I know that different people have different tolerance levels for bad language, but I am quite conservative in this respect. I feel that simple word substitutions would have made no difference to the story. For example, instead of saying “He’s really p*ssed at me this time…”, it easily could have been written as “He’s really ticked at me this time…” and it would not have changed the intent or meaning. It was particularly noticeable because I was reading the book aloud to my children and I had to substitute words on the fly. Regardless, my bottom line with respect to this issue is that the bad language was unnecessary and in fact, I would argue that bad language is unnecessary in middle grade books in general.
*FOR THE RECORD*: This is what my daughter had to say about the bad language: “I think there were way too many bad words especially for kids ten and under. I felt uncomfortably annoyed by the bad words and I wish that they were not in there and I wish that the words that were used were the ones my Mom replaced them with when she read the book.”
The second issue I had was with the recurrent theme of alcoholism. This is a pretty heavy topic for a middle grade crowd. I can see why it was necessary for the story to work, but Esteban’s grief and dejection could have been described in ways other than solely through his heavy drinking and his drunken behavior. I’m not sure that children under the age of 12 (in general) would understand very much about alcoholism. Further, there were frequent descriptions of drinking among the other adults in the story as well. It just felt awkward to be reading to my children how “he let the velvety liquid [port] lie on his tongue for a few seconds, so his taste buds might enjoy each distinct flavor.” It’s a beautiful description in a book for adults, but it felt out of place in a children’s book.
My Bottom Line: Diego’s Dragon: Spirits of the Sun is a gripping, intrigue-filled adventure featuring a young Hispanic boy as the main protagonist, a beautiful statue that transforms into a real dragon, and a cast of secondary characters who all play a role in helping Diego fulfill his destiny as the Guide who delivers his ancestors into the spirit world. Tweens and teens will enjoy this magical and mystical journey and I recommend this book, with a language warning, to ages 10+.
More Buzz About the Book
“Every book by this author is amazing. My son, who is very picky has bought every book. He has read them without putting them down and even asked me to organize having Kevin come to his school. Kevin, the Author is a person doing what he loves to do and it shows in his work and his interactions with the kids. You will not regret your purchase!” ~ 5 Star Review, Adina F., Amazon
“My 4th grade daughter is obsessed with dragon books. When I discovered Diego’s Dragon, I jumped at it–and now Kevin Gerard is her new favorite author! For a voracious reader like my daughter, that is the highest of compliments, especially considering her love for Erin Hunter’s Warrior Cats series. Her enthusiastic commentary about book one, and her pleading for book 2, had me eager to read it for myself. All I can say is . . . my daughter was right. For any fans of middle grade adventure or fantasy or dragons or boy books or epic awesomeness, this is the perfect story.” ~ 5 Star Review, S. O’Donnell, Amazon
“Kids who like dragon stories will love this adventure series. Those who liked Harry Potter, kids and adults, will like this series. I truly believe the Diego’s Dragon series will have readers anticipating new releases and then devouring the books immediately upon release. Spirits of the Sun is a great book for boys, and girls—and adults. Without gushing too much, I believe Spirits of the Sun is one of the best books I have read. If the series holds up, I will be its number one fan, though many others will claim that title. Kids, get this book.” ~ 5 Star Review, Sue M., Amazon
About the Author: Kevin Gerard
Kevin Gerard lives in San Diego, California, with two feline friends, Jesse the WonderCat and Little Man. When not writing or teaching statistics at Cal State San Marcos, he enjoys walking the grounds at the San Diego Zoo, hitting the waves at Cardiff State Beach, and hanging with his brother, nieces and nephews at the local Pizza Port. He also enjoys playing Halo on the internet; look for him in the rocket games as one of the characters from Diego’s Dragon or Conor and the Crossworlds.
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