Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Jade and El-Sea

Jade and El-Sea by J. W. Dickinson, illustrated by Sandra Temple (Wombat Books)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1-921633-24-9
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

The screamer on the back cover of this book had me reaching for it straight away; “When evil stalks the world, even dragons have to take sides”.

This is John W. Dickinson’s first young adult novel and is the story of El-Sea, a young penguin princess and her quest to save the world. The story begins when Jade, the ‘Guardian of the Mountain of Fire’ saves El-Sea’s life. She was dying at the entrance to his hidden fortress and needed his help to find the ‘Sacred Masters of the Deep’. Ancient text from the Hall of Knowledge in Jade’s cave fortress foretells of this quest although it is understood to be a myth until things happen to Jade and El-Sea to make them believe otherwise. A rough friendship blossoms as together they face dangers both man made and of El-Sea’s natural predators.

El-Sea is not an easy character to like and I had hoped as each stage of their quest progressed she would become more likeable. Sadly she did not. Jade however is an amiable and clever dragon and after being locked in his cave for two hundred and three years prior to El-Sea’s visit is more than happy to finally have a friend how ever difficult she may be. I must admit to finding it a little odd that El-Sea found the dragon attractive rather than seeing him as a friend and partner in battle.

The book is a chapter book, with each new chapter written in close personal third person told by either El-Sea or Jade. About a third of the way through the book another character La Roc is introduced and he has his own chapters. Occasionally I found I was re-reading several pages as I thought I had missed something. On one occasion El-Sea was trapped and facing certain death at the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next she was safe with no mention of how she escaped. However the story moved on at a reasonable pace and I soon forgot questions had not been answered. It is a loosely environmental story with reference to hunters (man). Perhaps it is an animals understanding of global warming and whale hunting.

I believe it would be a good book to read in upper primary classrooms. It would create interesting discussions on the environment and on behaviour. The story has all the elements of a great story, intrigue, adventure, action, environmental issues and a touch of romance; it had me turning the pages all the way to the end.

Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools and one local history coffee table book.

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