*A Dragon Used to Live Here by Annette LeBlanc Cate

In a whimsical tale within a tale, two royal children discover that their castle (and their own mother!) have a very interesting past.

A Dragon Used to Live Here by Annette LeBlanc Cate. Candlewick, 2022, 256 pages.

A Dragon Used to Live Here book cover

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended For: ages 6-12 as a read-aloud, 8-12 independent readers

Noble children Thomas and Emily are at a bit of a loose end. While the castle is busy preparing for a surprise party, it’s summer, and they have free time. Imagine their interest when they discover a mysterious door leading to a world of scribes and party invitations. Leading the scribes is the irascible Meg who claims to have known their mother –their very own mother– back when a dragon lived at the castle. Meg doesn’t mind telling them more of the story. But why haven’t they met her before? And is she actually telling the truth?

Readers, like Thomas and Emily, will quickly become absorbed in this charming tale within a tale. (Though some readers might grow bored of the continuing party preparations!) Illustrations throughout the book add to the story’s whimsical charm. Full of quirky characters, the most encouraging story element is the children’s friendship. It’s not always you see a nice example of sibling friendship -complete with laughter, bickering, and back and forth.

The story reminds me of another very fun tale within a tale: Wolf Story by William McCleery…a favorite book in our family growing up. With the value of friendship, and the imaginative joy of storytelling on full display, A Dragon Used to Live Here would be a delightful family read-aloud.

Considerations: (None)

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

  • Worldview/Moral Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Literary/Artistic Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Read more about our ratings here.

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Hayley Morell

Born in a library and raised by books, or rather, raised by a book-loving family, Hayley loves talking and writing about books. She lives in the middle of Wisconsin and works with children as well as with words.

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