Dads and dragons

In each of the middle-grade and young-adult novels by Janet Muirhead Hill that have been published so far, there is a father — either missing and missed, (Miranda and Starlight, Kyleah’s Tree, and especially Danny’s Dragon, in which the missing father, killed in war, is the story’s focus.) or ominously present, as in Kendall’s Storm.

Danny’s Dragon was a finalist for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award and won the Notable distinction for the Eric Hoffer Book Award in 2007.

When his father is killed in Iraq, nine-year-old Danny is lost in a fog of disbelief, anger, shame, and blame as he tumbles helplessly through the typical stages of grief.  Guilt consumes Danny, because he believes his father joined Montana’s Air National Guard in order to buy a horse for Danny. Danny employs his imagination to turn his horse, Dragon, into the kind that could fly to Iraq to save his dad. Danny’s mother takes him to a counselor, but he refuses to share his grief with anyone. He withdraws from friends and family. In emotional and financial desperation, his mother decides they must give up their Montana ranch, the only home Danny has ever known. They move to Denver, crowding his grandparents in their  already crowded house in a house-crowded urban neighborhood. His attempt to adapt to a large school is complicated by having to sit behind “the enemy,” an Iraqi classmate.

Danny’s Dragon is about coping with loss, mending relationships, and about a child’s resilience and growth.

“While it is something we don’t want to face, death is a fact of life and we should be prepared so that we can help our children through it. This book is well written. The story flows smoothly. The characters are endearing. Their lives are too real for comfort. Danny, Mindee and Mom are true to life. The illustrations add to the story line and are well done. The cover made me want to delve inside.” — Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for Reader Views, November 2006

“Janet Muirhead Hill is a gifted as a communicator and storyteller. Her message is important and timely. I was deeply moved as the plot concluded with a climactic surprise ending. This book is an important resource tool for counselors, teachers, and anyone dealing with the issue of grief. It is especially helpful when dealing with grieving middle school children. The book opens the way for introducing important dialog. “Danny’s Dragon” is a book that should be available in middle school libraries. It is an excellent addition for suggested reading lists provided by crisis counselors.” — Midwest Book Review, Reviewers Bookwatch, Richard’s Shelf

“Danny’s Dragon is a critically important book that needs to be a part of every school and community library collection in the country as thousands of children find themselves in a similar position to Danny with their fathers (and sometimes their mothers) going off to war, being wounded, and even killed, their lives and families savaged by war and the death of a parent.” — James A. Cox, editor-in-chief, Small Press Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

“I finished reading Danny’s Dragon, and I loved it. I felt like I knew Danny’s feelings very well, and from my own experiences, this book made me feel like another person had been through the exact same hard time as me. Reading Danny’s Dragon helped me a lot. I recommend this book for anyone, but especially someone who has lost someone very close to them. Danny acted exactly like I did when I lost my father. I didn’t believe that he was actually gone. I felt like the only thing I could go to was Dash, my horse. I told him everything because I knew that he could keep my secrets”. —  Katie Wade, age 13

Danny’s Dragon and other titles by Janet Muirhead Hill may be purchased at

Kendall’s Storm, a companion novel to Kyleah’s Tree (which was a finalist for the High Plains Book Award in the fiction category in 2009), is not yet in print. It is available as a e-book at Until it comes out in paperback, you may set your own price (i.e., you may download it for no charge if you so choose). The only favor requested in return is a short review sent to and/or posted on Smashwords.

Kendall knows that when Dad won’t answer, it’s bad news. He won’t tell Kendall why they move from town to town, always leaving in a hurry. Mostly, Kendall wants to know why Dad took him from his twin sister and his mother when he was only four. At age ten, he still pines for his sister but knows not to ask, not even whether she even exists. A storm-bedraggled puppy helps brings comfort to his lonely life as his father takes him west, finally stopping on the Long Beach Peninsula in southwest Washington. Danny is forced to face his fears; fear of the 4.2-mile-long Megler Bridge, fear of the ocean, fear of storms, and fear that his father is the worst kind of criminal, fear that he will never see his dog, Stormy, again when he is placed in a not-so-nice foster home. In the end, he is reunited with Stormy and with Lani, a woman he believes is an angel. Through it all,  he conquers his fears and feelings of shame and guilt with newfound hope and integrity.

“It was a good thing I started reading this book on a Sunday morning, because once I started I could not stop. This narrative absolutely kept me riveted right to the end. “Kendall’s Storm” was truly a great read, even as it kept me on the edge of my seat and took me places I didn’t always want to go. This book may be fiction, but it has a sincerity and ring of truth throughout. Through the characters’ eyes and personal experiences, one learns (again) just how badly we, as a society, treat our youngest and weakest members. Through the empathetic storytelling of Janet Muirhead Hill, we also experience a coming of age with the certainty that love, affection and attention can make a profound and positive difference in a child’s life. This was a wonderful, thought-provoking, and intense book, and I sincerely recommend it.” — Review by Wilson James on May. 18, 2010

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One Response to Dads and dragons

  1. Pingback: Hard lessons learned | Messages to Our Fathers

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