TEN-YEAR-OLD COUSINS Jesse and Daisy have always wanted something magical to happen to them. So it’s a wish come true when Jesse’s newly found thunder egg hatches, and a helpless, tiny but very loud baby dragon pops out. Soon the two kids are at the dragon’s beck-and-call, trying to figure out what to feed her. An Internet search leads them to the library, which leads them back to the Internet, where they find a very strange Web site called “foundadragon.org.” It is here that the cousins discover that the dragon’s hatching has designated them “Dragon Keepers” and that not only do they have to feed her, but they have to keep her safe from the villainous Saint George who has kept himself alive over centuries by drinking dragons’ blood. From the Hardcover edition.
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Random House Books for Young Readers
July 21, 2008
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Excerpt from Dragon Keepers #1: The Dragon in the Sock Drawer by Kate Klimo
On the first day of summer, Jesse, his cousin Daisy, and his uncle Joe went to High Peak. Uncle Joe had come to look for rocks. Jesse and Daisy had mostly come for the ride. Upon reaching the windy summit of High Peak, Jesse took one look at the view and bent over to pick up a rock. It made him feel dizzy to look down from the mountain, which was doing a pretty good job of living up to its name. Besides, maybe the rock would actually weigh him down enough to keep him from blowing away.
From Goldmine City (a big name for a small town), High Peak was sometimes visible. It rose in the distance like a delicious dessert topped with whipped cream. The whipped cream was snow, which was always there, even on the hottest day of the year.
Jesse was on the mountain for the first time. Uplose, the snow didn't look so good. It looked sort of crusty and dirty, and it was much colder on the mountaintop than it was down in Goldmine City. Jesse's sweatshirt was not doing much to keep him warm.
Jesse had been living in Goldmine City with Daisy, Uncle Joe, and Aunt Maggie since Easter vacation in March. His parents were in Africa, setting up a children's clinic in a village in Tanzania. Jesse had traveled with his parents his whole life, but on his tenth birthday he decided that he wanted to live in America. He wanted to eat American food, go to an American school, and have adventures with Daisy, his favorite cousin, who he had been visiting for three weeks every summer of every year of his life.
These days, Jesse wore two watches on his left wrist, one with a blue band and one with a black band. The watch with the black band told him the time in Goldmine City. The watch with the blue band told him the time in Tanzania. It was two o'clock here and midnight there. He imagined his parents asleep beneath mosquito netting in their hut, surrounded by snakes as long as cars and bugs as big as chipmunks. On the whole, even given the extreme elevation, he was happier here with Daisy.
Jesse went over to where Daisy was sitting to find out what she was doing. Anyone seeing them together would think they were friends rather than family, because they looked nothing alike. They were both ten years old, but Jesse was small for his age and sturdy, with brown eyes and shaggy brown hair. Daisy was fair-haired and tall and thin. The wind whipped her hair, which was as pale and fine as corn silk. The tips of her ears, which poked through her hair like an elf 's, were bright pink. The tip of her nose matched.
Daisy looked up and smiled at Jesse through lips blue with cold. Then she went back to sketching a flower that was poking out of the snow. Her pencil was sticking out of the sleeve of her sweatshirt, which she had pulled over her hand to keep it warm. A wildflower handbook was open, its pages weighted down at the edges with small stones. Her eyes went from flower to sketch to handbook and back again. What rocks were for her father, flowers were for Daisy. She liked to say: "Not knowing the names of the flowers is like not knowing the names of your own brothers and sisters."
"What kind is it?" Jesse asked.
"I'm pretty sure it's Prunella vulgaris," she said.
"It's totally magical. Its folk name is self-heal."
"Cool," he said. "What does it heal?"
"The Indians used to put it on boils," she said.
"Boils. Gross," he said.
Daisy carefully picked the wildflower and laid it between the pages of her notebook, right next to her sketch. She printed the name in neat block letters beneath the sketch and then turned the page. At home, she would transfer the specimen to her wildflower press, and, when it was dried, she would frame it. She had over twenty varieties of wildflowers already framed, her contribution to their Museum of Magic. The two cousins' way of keeping in touch over the years had been by reading the same books of fantasy. They were convinced that sooner or later they would have a magical adventure of their own. While they waited, they saw magic in everything around them: in flowers and seashells, in birds and animals, even in old bottles and doorknobs.
Daisy gave Jesse a sidelong look. "You okay?" she asked. She knew about his fear of heights. On the hike up the mountain, she had stopped practically every tenth step to ask him the same question.
Jesse nodded and held up the rock to show her that he was keeping busy, but Daisy had already moved on to the next wildflower. Jesse closed his eyes and thought about the e-mail message he would write to his parents when he got back to the house:
Dear Mom and Dad, I finally got to High Peak. It is pretty high for an old volcano. But it is frozen stiff now. The snow looks sort of like whipped cream-
Jesse stopped cold.
"Let me out!"
Jesse's eyes snapped open. The voice sounded close and far away at the same time, like the music leaking out of somebody else's earphones. Jesse looked around.