<b>In Ã”Dragonology,' British editor creates fire-breathing treat for young readers</b>Some of you with a child between the ages of eight and eighteen have probably seen your son or daughter peeking out from behind a large, lavishly illustrated red book entitled <i>Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons</i>. Not only that, you might have listened to your child reciting the classifications of dragons by habitat (Frost dragons, naturally, are found in the Arctic regions); and it's also possible you've been lectured on dragon physiology, including the fact that a dragon's fire can reach a temperature of 1,000 degrees.
You may have wondered where your child absorbed such extensive knowledge. Could this Dr. Ernest Drake he or she keeps talking about the renowned 19th-century dragonologist really have existed? In fact, as your young reader probably has discovered, Dr. Drake is the brainchild of Dugald A. Steer, who up until a few years ago was an unknown British editor. Now Steer spends his days writing books and giving lectures about dragons, wizards and pirates. BookPage caught up with Steer on his return from a performance in Budapest, in order to hear (from the dragon's mouth, as it were) about the remarkable success of the books that have become known as the Ologies <i>Dragonology, Wizardology, Egyptology</i> and <i>Pirateology</i>, hands-on reference books that have become hits both in the United Kingdom and in America.
I was a very happy editor, says Steer, who worked at Templar Publishing, a children's publisher just outside London that specializes in novelty books. When Steer heard that his company wanted to launch a project on dragons, he weighed in with an intriguing concept: books that would showcase the work of a renowned dragonologist from the Victorian era. The books are ostensibly edited by Steer, who claims to have first encountered Dr. Drake by chance at the Bull's Head Tavern in Dorking, Surrey. (Coincidentally, Templar Publishing is located in Dorking.)Dr. Drake makes his latest appearance in <b>The Dragon's Eye</b>, the first-ever Dragonology fiction. Aimed at readers ages nine and up, <i>The Dragon's Eye</i> launches a new series of middle-grade novels titled the Dragonology Chronicles.
We wanted to show Dr. Drake in action, says Steer of his longest work to date. The exciting story follows 12-year-old Daniel Cook and his sister, Beatrice, as they attend the special summer school run by Dr. Drake, and find themselves in a race against time to find the Dragon's Eye jewel.
When the series began, Steer worked closely with Templar's art and design team to produce a handsome, lavishly illustrated volume that includes maps, pullout booklets on dragon riddles, sealed envelopes with a dragon-calling spell and an embossed faux leather cover. After its publication in 2003, <i>Dragonology</i> became a surprise bestseller. We only printed 35,000 copies, which sold out immediately, Steer says. Now there have been two million sold worldwide, translated into 27 languages. The original volume has already inspired two companion books and a Dragonology board game. It's no surprise to learn that the creator of this imaginative series loved to read as a boy, and fantasy ranked among his favorites, including Tolkien's <i>The Hobbit</i> and <i>The Voyage of the Dawn Treader</i>, one of C.S. Lewis' Narnia stories. To a certain extent, admits the soft-spoken author, I'm writing for the little boy I used to be. As in the other Ologies, Steer's love of science, history and simply learning comes through in <b>The Dragon's Eye</b>. I hope all these books help to create the idea of a love of knowledge, he notes, perhaps thinking of how young readers have taken to devouring information on, say, the tail feathers of the Mexican Amphithere (<i>Draco americanus mex</i>), which are the most ticklish of all feathers. Who knows how many of today's budding dragonologists will be turning their attention to other ologies, such as biology and geology, tomorrow? <i>Deborah Hopkinson's most recent book for young people is</i> Into the Firestorm, A Novel of San Francisco, 1906.