HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Pete’s Dragon: The Lost Years
Author: Elizabeth Rudnick
Illustrator: Nicholas Kole
Publisher: Disney Press, 2016
Related website(s): http://www.disneybooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 9 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Rudnick, Elizabeth. Pete’s Dragon: The Lost Years (published in 2016 by Disney Press, an imprint of Disney Book Group, a division of Disney Enterprises Inc., 1101 Flower St., Glendale, CA 91201). It is 1977, and Peter Anderson Walker, or Pete, a five-year-old boy, is on a road trip with his parents in the North Country outside of a town called Millhaven when their car flips off the road following a near-collision with a deer. Pete’s mom and dad are killed, but Pete survives the accident and is chased into the gigantic forest by a pack of wolves. He is rescued by a huge dragon with green fur, yellow eyes, and wings. The lonely dragon quickly bonds with Pete and becomes protective of the boy. Pete names the dragon “Elliot” after the character of a lost puppy from his favorite book.
Over the next four and a half years, Pete lives with Elliot in his underground cave and builds a tree house in the giant tree that grows on top of the cave. Together they explore the surrounding woods. Their lives seem idyllic. However, one day while Elliot has flown far off to find new sources of food, a monstrous storm of all storms sweeps through the area, destroying Pete’s tree house and seriously injuring Elliot. When the dragon doesn’t return, the boy sets out to find him but gets lost. Is Pete able to locate Elliot? Can the dragon survive his wounds until then? And will the two ever make it back home? In 1977, Walt Disney made a live-action/animated musical fantasy comedy film called Pete’s Dragon based on an unpublished short story of the same name, written by Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field.
In 2016, Disney did a live-action “remake,” actually a re-imagining, of the film. The new movie begins when Pete gets lost in the forest and forms his unforgettable friendship with Elliot. Then it skips ahead to six years later when Pete, now 11, spots a lumberjack crew chopping down trees near his home. The book, with original illustrations, explores Pete and Elliot’s adventures and struggles in the forest to catch up on what happens during the time from Pete’s being small boy to an older child and serves as a prequel to tell the tale of the lost years not shown in the film. There are a couple of references to both Pete’s and Elliot’s butts, but this very ingenious and imaginative story will appeal to both middle grade and younger children, though it is written for more advanced readers.