Children/Young: Mondragó, La gran prueba

Author: Ana Galán
-US Release Date: 03-01-2013
-Reviewed by:Eduardo de Lamadrid
-Review Release:May 25, 2013

Ana Galan earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and was Editorial Director of Spanish publishing at Scholastic, before becoming a fulltime author. She has been extensively published in the field of Children's literature both in Spanish and English, and has also written bilingual books with her husband.

Mondragó, La gran prueba (The Great Test) is the first of a trilogy of books for children of 8 to 11 years of age, but which can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The protagonist, Cale, is an eleven year old boy who dreams of being assigned a dragon of his own, as is the custom in the town of Samaradó, where he lives. The dragon he receives, Mondragó, is different from all other dragons he has known, but he is good companion. To keep Mondragó, Cale must first pass a test, which is to take the dragon from the dragon keeper's castle to his own castle before the Moon is up, without the help of adults. In his journey, Cale is joined by his friends Arco, Casi, and Mayo, and together they experience a series of perils and adventures, including an encounter with the diabolical Murda and the murderous dragons of his mysterious father, Mayor Wickenburg. 

Cale is a dreamer, sincere and innocent, whose assigned dragon has many similarities to himself. One of the successes of this book is meeting Mondragó, a tender and clumsy dragon who cannot fly and is constantly sneezing fire, an inventive take on the usual prototypes for these kinds of mythological beings. Yet Mondragó proves to be brave and loyal, and on more than one occasion, manages to extricate his owner from danger. 

Mondrag?ó is a story that has a series of qualities that will delight youngsters. It's fast-paced and entertaining, and the protagonist learns to make his own decisions, although sometimes he has doubts if he's making the right one. This makes him very human and inspires the reader's empathy. Parents can also delight in the espousal of values such as friendship, solidarity, fellowship, and overcoming fear, although the book does not pretend to moralize. Above all, this is a story with a good plotline and snappy dialogue, and characters with whom the reader soon becomes enamored. 

While the main obstacles of the book are overcome, the author has been perspicacious enough to leave one mystery unresolved for the next installment in the series. An added bonus are the colorful and vivid illustrations by Pablo Pino, which provide a visual counterpart to the text that will surely enhance the reading experience for youngsters.