Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1994 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.

for more information contact
Gale Sherman:
Bette Ammon:

A 1994 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 4-8):

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
by Bruce Coville

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Cloth: 160 pages. 1991. $16.95 (ISBN 0-15-200748-2). HBJ/Jane Yolen. Paper: 140 pages. $2.99 (ISBN 0-671-74782-7). Pocket Books.
GENRES: Fantasy, contemporary realistic fiction
THEMES: Dragons, love, magic, talent, artists, pets, secrets, school life, friendship, communication-visual telepathy, emotions, boy/girl relationships, invisibility, teachers
READABILITY: Fifth grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Fourth through eighth


"Coville is most successful in melding the story's real and fantasy worlds and in creating Tiamat's unusual means of communication (visual telepathy delivered in an aura of colors), which seems an especially appropriate way of connecting with the artistic Jeremy. This is a handsomely designed book, with sepia-tone illustrations that enhance the story and with brown print on good-quality ivory paper [hardback edition only]. Dragon buffs and imaginative readers alike will enjoy Coville's light yet thoughtful fantasy." Booklist 87(18):1798 May 15, 1991. Kay Weisman.

"In this entertaining fantasy readers will soon realize that things are not always as they seem....The book is filled with scenes that will bring laughter and near tears to readers. Jeremy and his friends are believable characters; their actions and reactions are typical of the children's age. Once again, Coville offers a fantasy that younger readers can handle easily, and one in which dragons really exist for a little while." School Library Journal 37(5):91 May 1991. Kenneth E. Kowen.

"This is intended for middle grade readers and is right on target. Not only is the story involving but the reader can really get a feeling for Jeremy as a person. Coville's technique of combining the real world with a fantasy one works well in this story. Recommended." Voice of Youth Advocates 14(2):106 June 1991. Kathleen Redmond. (#4 quality, #4 popularity).



Bruce Coville grew up in a small town in upstate New York. He became hooked on books at age eight after his father read aloud an original Tom Swift adventure. Even though Coville also spent time watching television (he regrets that), he read everything from Dr. Dolittle to the Hardy Boys plus "zillions of comic books." He says he was "an absolute bookaholic." When Coville was in sixth grade he wrote a short story for a class assignment and realized that writing was something he wanted to do. Halloween is Coville's favorite holiday, his school colors were black and orange, and he was employed for a while as a grave digger. As a children's author, Coville tries to write stories about the things he would have liked to read about. He says "the first and foremost job in writing is to tell a whacking good story." Coville lives in a New York City apartment with a cat named Spike.


Jeremy Thatcher's school problems are insignificant after he visits the strange Magic Shop and comes home with a beautiful marbled egg. The egg comes with instructions because Jeremy has been selected to be in the "Company of Hatchers." He successfully hatches Tiamat, a small red-scaly dragon who grows at an unbelievable pace, consuming vast quantities of milk and chicken livers. Tiamat is invisible to everyone except the family pets and a classmate. Raising a dragon isn't easy but Jeremy's research at the library and his experience as a veterinarian's son stand him in good stead. Communicating through visual telepathy, Jeremy and Tiamat become the best of friends and Tiamat's inevitable return to her own world is difficult for them both. Jeremy Hatcher... is part of the "Magic Shop Books" series which also includes The Monster's Ring (XXX) and Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Coville (HBJ, 1992).


The thirteen chapters, frequent illustrations, and intriguing subject matter make Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher an excellent candidate for individual reading. It is prime booktalking material! However, you may want to read the ten page chapter (#3, page 22 hardback and paperback editions) entitled "Hatchling" on the day of a full moon to entice would-be readers.


Jeremy Thatcher has stumbled into a peculiar Magic Shop and, after looking around, finds himself strangely attracted to a beautiful, multi-colored ball. However, the Magic Shop owner refuses to sell it to him.
Muttering to himself, he reached out, took the ball from Jeremy, and stared at it. For a moment he seemed worried. Then he sighed and shook his head. "Do you have a quarter?" he asked. "What?" "I said, do you have a quarter? You may have it for a quarter." Jeremy looked up in surprise. "I thought you said I didn't want it." The old man looked directly into Jeremy's eyes. "You don't," he said softly. "It wants you." (page 11, hardback and paperback editions)
How can a ball want a boy? Or is it really a ball? The name of this book is Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.


(Prop: make a facsimile of the instructions "How to Hatch a Dragon's Egg" on page 17, hardback and paperback editions. Use parchment and spidery script as illustrated on page 16.)

Jeremy thinks he has just purchased an ever-changing colored kaleidoscope ball but then he looks at the piece of folded up paper that was placed in the box. It says "How to Hatch a Dragon's Egg."

Read prop.
With these instructions, Jeremy Thatcher is about to become a Dragon Hatcher.


When Jeremy needs answers to questions he usually visits his local library. There Miss Priest, the children's librarian is generally very helpful. But this time his question may just be too strange.
Gathering the books he wanted to check out, he took them to Miss Priest. "Did you find what you were looking for?" she asked. "Not everything," he admitted. Hyacinth Priest paused, then leaned toward him and said softly, "Just exactly what are you looking for?" " question will sound silly." The librarian looked directly into his eyes. "No question is silly if you really want to know the answer," she said fiercely. "Okay," said Jeremy. "Then what I want to know is, do you have anything on how to raise a dragon?" Miss Priest smiled. "Of course," she said softly. (pages 42-43, hardback and paperback editions)
Miss Priest magically produces exactly the book Jeremy needs from the bottom drawer of her desk. Why would she have a book like that? Is she a dragon hatcher too?



Jeremy is a talented young artist and is distracted by having to raise a young dragon. Inadvertently, he draws a dragon instead of the still-life required in his art class. Let your students draw dragons. Create a gallery of dragons. Or, like the contest in Jeremy's school, have an art contest with the winners featured on the main school bulletin board, in the school newspaper, and/or on school windows. Perhaps the winner could draw illustrations for a summer reading program?

Provide the following books for drawing ideas and techniques: Draw 50 Beasties and Yugglies and Turnover Uglies and Things That Go Bump in the Night by Lee J. Ames (Doubleday, 1988), Draw 50 Monsters, Creeps, Superheroes, Demons, Dragons, Nerds, Dirts, Ghouls, Giants, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Curiosa... By Lee J. Ames (Doubleday, 1983), Drawing Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals by Don Bolognese (Watts, 1982), How Do You Draw Dinosaurs? by D.C. DuBosque (Peel, 1989), Starting Pencil Drawing by Michael Woods (Dryad, 1988), and/or Drawing Reptiles by Paul Frame (Watts, 1986).

Language Arts/Dragons:

Many people love dragons and dragonlore. Include in your library or classroom a collection of dragon books featuring titles such as The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson (Harper, 1979) which combines fact with fantasy and proposes the possibility of the true existence of dragons. Also consult A Book of Dragons by Hosie and Leonard Baskin (Knopf, 1985) which features a brief introduction to twenty-two famous mythological and literary dragons. Dragons and Dreams by Jane Yolen, Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh (Harper, 1986) is a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories featuring dragons. Others include Dragons, Gods and Spirits from Chinese Mythology by Geraldine Harris (Schocken, 1983) and The Truth About Dragon by Rhoda Blumberg (Four Winds, 1980).

Provide a video--Merlin and the Dragon from "Stories to Remember" series produced by Joshua M. Greene (Lightyear Entertainment) for further enrichment.

Reading/Creative Writing:

Students may be unaware of the dedications pages that usually precede the Table of Contents. Coville's dedication in Jeremy Thatcher..., is special and interesting. Most books have dedication pages, some more interesting than others. Students can easily read hundreds of dedications in a short time, looking for the best to share with classmates. If they write a book, who would they dedicate it to and how? (Giving students the opportunity to handle quantities of books without having to read them may result in students voluntarily selecting books to read that they ordinarily would never have found.)


While Jeremy waits for the dragon egg to hatch, he observes the constellations. Use this idea as a springboard for further study of the constellations. Students can build models of various constellations, and/or do further reading.

Suggested titles include The Sky Observer's Guide by Newton Mayall, et al. (Western, 1985), Starwatch by Ben Mayer (Putnam, 1984), The Space Atlas by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest (Gulliver/Harcourt, 1992), Look to the Night Sky: An Introduction to Star Watching by Seymour Simon(Penguin, 1977), Sun Dogs and Shooting Stars: A Sky-watchers Calendar by Franklyn M. Branley (Houghton, 1980), and/or About Stars and Planets by James Muirden (Watts, 1987).



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