scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source
Finally! I've been waiting for this book to come along -- I just didn't realize it. John Ronald's Dragons does a wonderful job of interspersing a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien with one of the fantastical elements he's known for: dragons. Whether he's enjoying himself or experiencing great difficulties such as the loss of his mother as a boy, and World War I as a soldier, Tolkien's imagination helps him to cope.
It isn't until he takes a teaching position at Oxford that his imagination leads him to a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who in turn finally leads him on a long quest to his dragon. The story actually doesn't cover any details of Tolkien publishing his writing, nor does it mention The Lord of the Rings. It simply leaves him to "follow" his dragon through some familiar Middle Earth landscapes until he finds Smaug in the Lonely Mountain. The ending would probably seem abrupt if it wasn't so fantastical.
I'm sure this story will appeal to any fan of Tolkien. For children, it's a great introduction to the author of Middle Earth. While children who are unfamiliar with the series will not experience the "Yay, Bilbo!" moment that us adults do when Tolkien finally writes the first line of The Hobbit on a blank piece of paper, the dragons alone should be enough to pique the interest of a child. This story also manages to give good details without being too wordy. The end notes include a bibliography and some other detailed notes by the author and the illustrator.
Scrounged From: Our local library
Author: Caroline McAlister
Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
Content Advisory: Tolkien's mother's death is mentioned briefly, as well as the destruction of war. The story contains many illustrations of dragons, but they are presented in an intriguing, fantastical manner and are not intended to terrify.