Parent Review: St. George and the Dragon
Brenda Praggastis and her teen-aged daughter Elena both read Michael Lotti’s new book, St. George and the Dragon. They agreed to read the book separately and write separate reviews, so that we could share with you both parent and teen perspectives on the book. Here’s Brenda’s response to the book. Click here to read Elena’s response.
Dragons in fantasy fiction are often depicted as beautiful and seductive creatures, powerful and evil, but sometimes tamable forces…and hence perhaps not so bad. Not so in Michael Lotti’s St. George and the Dragon, wherein the iconic dragon of Orthodox tradition comes to life in all of its ugliness. Here Marcellus, a Roman tribune, must stand against the power of a dragon and its worshipers to rescue his people from losing their very souls.
Young readers will be immediately hooked by beheadings and dragon attacks. Mature readers sit in horror of the seductive power of the sulfuric poison enshrouding the countryside, infiltrating the Roman empire and poisoning the minds of its people. So powerful is the poison that even the noble Marcellus is vulnerable to the influence of the dragon.
Then he looked at the dragon’s red eyes and felt strengthened. He saw an uncontrollable fiery force in them, but they also seemed to contain his ambitions: marriage to Regina, a glorious career in the army, and the life of a noble and wealthy Roman citizen. As he breathed in deeply, he also noticed that the dragon had been right: he was getting used to the smell…..St. George and the Dragon
As a parent, I appreciate this unequivocal depiction of evil. The popular culture bombards our families with seductive suggestions. The whispering voices that beckon us to compromise and gradually fill our minds with ideas that challenge the tenets of our faith…are perhaps not so bad. The allure of comfort and momentary pleasure overrides our good sense. But when a dragon rises up with his stench and his horror, consuming all we care about, our choices become clearer.
Marcellus must choose between the promise of a safe and comfortable life and the life of a Christian outlaw. As readers, we can see the path he must take and are drawn to warn and encourage him. The agony of his struggle is made clear through his dreams and the influence imposed by his fiancé and her family. But Marcellus is fortunate. His father was a reader of Cicero who taught him the importance of self-discipline and fairness. His mother was a Christian who imprinted her goodness upon him. Marcellus is drawn toward right living and has the ability to discern for himself the evil the dragon represents. From this struggle we witness the emergence of a saint.
I’ve read the book twice now: once as a child would, wondering what would happen next, then as an adult recognizing the dragons in my daily life. Both reads were satisfying. Families who enjoy read-a-louds will find this book excellent for children as the language is set at a middle grade level and the story moves swiftly.
Editor’s Note: St. George and the Dragon is written by Michael Lotti and illustrated by Jennifer Soriano. This book is available through the OCN Webstore. Click to purchase a Kindle or paperback edition.
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