Monday, November 30, 2020

MMGM- Dragon Ops and The Reign: Africa

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Mancusi, Mari. Dragon Ops 
May 12th 2020 by Disney-Hyperion
School library copy

Ian and his older sister Lilli loved the video game Fields of Fantasy, so they are super excited when their uncle, who is working on the new virtual reality theme park Dragon Ops, invites them to beta test the game on the remote island where the theme park will open. Unfortunately, they have to put up with their annoying cousin Derek as well. Even before they arrive at the island, Ian has some weird experiences, such as seeing the dragon Atreus, who is not supposed to be part of the game. He also meets a girl named Ikumi, who offers some information but is somewhat standoffish. Lilli hasn't been as thrilled with the game recently, and has, in fact, sworn off all technology, but the opportunity to participate in a game that has virtual reality superimposed upon a real landscape is undeniably appealing. When the guide who is supposed to take them into the game becomes ill, they end up being escorted by one of the coders. After meeting up with Atreus (and giving him some ear scratch 'ems!), the coder goes back to make the dragon more fierce, leaving the children unchaperoned. They don't think it will be a problem until Atreus returns with his "improved" coding and captures and imprisons Derek. Soon, Ian and Lilli, with some help from the elusive Ikumi, are engaged in an epic quest for dragon stones that should save their video game world... and which might help save their lives as well.
Strengths: My video game experience is limited to rapidly extinguishing my worlds in Sim City and Dino Park Tycoon about 15 years ago, and watching my children try to play Runescape on dial up internet, so there were a lot of video game details I didn't quite get. This makes it PERFECT for readers who actually know what is going on. This also had a lot of action and adventure that didn't require video game knowledge. I loved Lilli's reasons for quitting video games, and Ian and Ikumi's relationship was interesting and also had a BIG twist at the end. Like this author's Gamer Girl and Camelot Code, Dragon Ops will appeal to "techies" (as my father calls them) and fantasy lovers alike. I also have a very soft spot in my heart for this author's Princesses, Inc.  
Weaknesses: While any novel involving technology is fascinating when it is published, they all run the risk of becoming dated very quickly. Computer dating books, anyone?
What I really think: Purchased this one without having read it and was NOT disappointed!

Nichole, C. The Reign: Africa
December 2nd 2020 by Pan African Publishing House
Copy provided by the publisher

This book is an interesting overview of different tribes in Africa. Each two page spread includes one illustration of a member of the tribe mentioned in traditional costume, and the accompanying text covers topics such as where the tribe lives in modern times, the traditional languages, the activities of both men and women, rituals and customs, and additional information such as community activities, homes, animals that figure largely in the culture, traditional dishes, and an assortment of fun facts. 

I can't think of any other books that cover such a large range of tribes. I would have loved to see a map that showed where the tribes were located, and photographs of the villages, buildings, etc. would have been great as well. 

My school has a number of students from various parts of Africa, so this is a helpful book to have for all of my readers to gain more understanding of different cultures from this area of the world. 

The only drawback of this book was that the text was a bit hard for me to read; it was sort of a compacted Comic Sans style that had very little space between letters. This book is not available from Follett, although Amazon does carry the paperback.


  1. I have a granddaughter who plays a few video games, mostly with one friend who knows a lot. I imagine she would enjoy Dragon Ops. And the Africa book sounds great, but I wonder too why no map? Thanks!

  2. Now that I am retired, and my grandkids are too young for video games, I don't usually pay attention to books connected to them. That said, I can see where this might be a great title for youngsters who are into them.
    I wonder if the publisher might make an online map available to accompany The Reign. It does seem like a major oversight.

  3. Long, long ago I reviewed video games for a magazine. I shifted over to books since they are my real passion. Still though, I'm always drawn to MG stories that include gaming in the plot. Thanks for featuring this fun sounding title on MMGM. I'll be tracking down a copy.

  4. I'm not interested in a gaming book, but the book on African tribes sounds great. I will be checking it out. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Agree the any techie-books can feel out-of-date quickly. (Kind of like the movie Tron!)

  6. Congrats on finishing your Goodreads reading challenge! Dragon Ops sounds like a really cool book—all of the video game and virtual reality aspects will, I imagine, appeal to quite a few kids! (I probably wouldn't get many of the details either—the only video game I play anymore is Animal Crossing, which is sort of the antithesis to every other video game.) The Reign: Africa sounds great as well! Thanks for the great post!

  7. Dragon Ops sounds like a title I need to check out. One of my sons is a gaming developer and my younger three love playing all sorts of video games. Thanks for the shares, Karen!

  8. I am sure there are a lot of middle graders who will love Dragon Ops. Gaming is always big and may encourage reading. The African book intrigues me because I'm very involved with a large school (K-12) for girls in Kitenga, Tanzania. I help with choosing books for the library and I like to include books about Africa. Your comment about the font, concerns me. But will check it out.

  9. Dragon Ops looks like it would compliment the new Kudo Kids book well. I'll have to check it out!