(Cover picture courtesy of National Geographic Kids.)
When David moves in with Elizabeth Pennykettle and her eleven-year-old daughter, Lucy, he discovers a collection of clay dragons that come to life. David’s own special dragon inspires him to write a story, which reveals the secrets behind a mystery. In order to solve the mystery and save his dragon, David must master the magic of the fire within—not only with his hands but also with his heart.
The Fire Within is definitely a book for ages 8-12, but I still love reading it. The whole premise behind Chris d’Lacey’s book is unique, highly creative and very intriguing. I won’t give anything away, but the clay dragons of the eccentric Pennykettles aren’t all that they seem. David will discover the truth, but will the college student believe it?
Since this is written for a much younger audience, David, the main character, is less mature than most college students. The characters are not developed as well as they could have been, but they do get better as the novel progresses. It is more of a character-driven novel than a plot-driven novel and as such, it is not what I would call a fast-paced novel. Still, it moves along at a decent pace that will keep its young readers riveted.
The writing style is simplistic, which makes it a great book to transition from shorter “chapter books” for children into more complex novels for tweens. While the story is written from a male perspective, female readers will not be turned away because they can identify with the young Lucy Pennykettle. I have only one warning about this novel (one that my mother insists I should have told her when I made her read it): the ending is a bit sad for a children’s novel. I was eleven or twelve when I first read this and I must admit that I shed a few tears, despite my best efforts at self-control.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.