The Sun-Eating Dragon is On Its Way

On August 21 this year, the sun-eating dragon will make its appearance. And the spectacle is bound to be frightening, beautiful or frightening beautiful; depends on how you choose to look at it.

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Eclipse” by Buddy_Nath is licensed under CC by 2.0

The word ‘eclipse’ has its origins in the Greek word meaning ‘abandonment’. Come solar eclipse, and the sun suddenly abandons the earth – light begins to fade, a disc of pure blackness slides across the face of the sun and the birds stop chirping altogether. In the early days, the ancient Chinese would bang on pots and drums and create a clamor, apparently to frighten away the dragon that ‘ate the sun’. Astrophysicist David Dearborn rightly noted: “In many ways it makes sense that eclipses would be seen as bad omens. For most early cultures, the sun was seen as a life-giver, something that was there every day, so something that blots out the sun was a terribly bad event, filled with foreboding.”

In a total solar eclipse like the one that is occurring this August, looking directly at the sun is akin to looking at moonlight. But beware – the rays can remain dangerously bright even though they may appear faint, so one should use special eclipse glasses while observing the sun.

From the point of view of science, this is what will happen in the total solar eclipse – the moon will pass between the earth and the sun and for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, blocking out all or part of the sun. According to Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate: “These cosmic moments where nature speaks to us in an emotional way, sometimes come loud, like thunderstorms, storms, hurricanes and earthquakes, but this one… will be silent. Day will turn into night and back again.”

 

The Land of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Welcome to ‘How to Train Your Dragon land’ at Motiongate theme park in the heart of Dubai! If the pictures and videos doing the rounds are anything to go by, then this exciting space is as magical as the movie characters and their Viking escapades.

‘Camp Viking’ is an interactive playground within the DreamWorks section of the park wherein kids can run amok, armed with crawl nets, water guns and other dragon training tools. Then there’s a suspended in the air, inverted roller coaster of sorts with twisting seats called ‘Dragon Gliders’ stationed above the village of Berk replete with scenery befitting the Viking village, which, in the words of the makers themselves, is ‘storytelling through the use of technology at its very best’.

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Image courtesy: TravellerCzech

Last but not the least, the third major attraction is the gondola-shaped ride called ‘The Swinging Viking’. With this, you can embark on a hijacking adventure with the mischievous twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, and hold the ship to ransom. This is as real to the reel story as it can get; rest assured, we all know where we are heading to for our family holiday in the next vacation!

Pet Dragons, Anyone?

Last weekend, my son had a declaration to make on the dinner table to the entire family. His best pal in the neighborhood had a pet dragon (apparently), and so he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why he wasn’t allowed pets of any kind, dragons or otherwise. We’ve had a strict ‘no pets’ policy at our place since the beginning, due to various factors. However, as the little tyke said, it was high time we ‘changed our policy’. As for me, I was more interested in what type of ‘dragon’ the neighborhood friend had as a pet.

When I first heard of it, I was pretty sure it must be one of the following: either a dragon toy car or animal which could be pulled by a rope behind you (we played with these types of rope toy steam engines back as a kid), a tortoise which looked like a dragon (since I couldn’t imagine any other domesticated pet which would resemble a dragon even remotely), one of the dragon-like animals from the pet games that are the rage with children of all ages these days, or simply a non-existent, make-believe creature which held pride of place only in their imaginations. Little did I know that the ‘dragon’ being referred to was actually a real pet. What’s more, it was a dragon, in the literal sense of the word. A bearded dragon at that.

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Image courtesy: Shieldsink

For those of you who still didn’t get it, let me throw some more light on the neighborhood dragon pet. I did some research on the creature and here’s the gist of it all. A bearded dragon is nothing but a lizard species. These ‘beardies’, as they are lovingly called (though why in this whole wide world would someone refer to lizards lovingly at all escapes me), are supposed to be low-maintenance, easy-to-nurture pets, especially for kids. Originating from the Australian subcontinent, they get their names from the flat spines on their throat area.

Reasons why bearded dragons are ideal for a pet, according to the neighborhood mum who, I now learnt, was also averse to pets of any shape or size till the recent past: First and foremost, they stay awake when humans do and sleep at night, unlike certain other species of lizards. Two, they are known to live for at least a good 8-10 years, under normal circumstances. Three (which was a very important factor for her kid while choosing his pet), they come in a variety of colors – brown, red, yellow, orange. All in all, they are hardy yet docile creatures which are good for the purpose of companionship (which I assume meant that if you just wished to say no to your child for a high-maintenance puppy, go for this bearded dragon).

I admit I’m still not fully convinced welcoming a beardie or anything else within the four walls of my house. One, I don’t think a pet lizard is cute from any angle whatsoever. Two, I’m convinced that my son will simply grow bored of his pet sooner rather than later and then the responsibility of looking after it will automatically be transferred to his lizard-fearing mum. Last but not the least, there are tons of things I would rather do instead of looking lovingly into the eyes of a supposedly adorable lizard.

Thankfully, there are lots of like-minded people like me out there. For instance, have a look at this article which talks about destruction and pets combined. Amen.

Dragons Now Race To The Top!

Friends, dragon lovers, countrymen… Lend me your ears!  Season 4 of DreamWorks’ spin-off series ‘Race to the Edge’ is out now, and has turned out to be even more glorious than expected. What’s more, the show boasts of a whopping 17 per cent share of children’s viewership in its debut month itself!

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Image courtesy: How To Train Your Dragon

What’s so exciting about the new season? Well, a couple of instances:

  • The action sequences set in the gorgeously scenic dragon-inhabited islands are seamless, to say the least. Be it skimming the ocean surfaces on their dragons, mid-air spins to escape dragon hunter arrows or just working about on their dwelling place, each scene holds so much fine detailing in it. A feast for the senses.
  • A coming-of-age tale if there ever was one. The characters are their usual selves, albeit a bit more grown up and mature versions of themselves (especially Hiccup, who demonstrates a newfound sense of responsibility and leadership in certain situations). Trials and tribulations come and go, and our characters give it all they’ve got.
  • A complete package is what this season of Dragons is – action and humor, friendships and enmities, challenges and responsibilities. Perhaps this is what makes it an ideal watch for all age groups, not just kids alone.

I’m in a bit of a quandary though; the previous season had the at times annoying, pompous Snotlout as my favorite dragon rider. However, this season it seems the ‘Nut’ twins are vying for my affection, Tuffnut in particular. Just can’t do without him and his ‘Chicken’!

3 Popular Dragon Story Books for Kids

Kids (and adults like me) have always loved dragons. Be it in books, cartoons, games, movies or anywhere else, dragons have somehow always held a charm that is impossible to go unnoticed. It may be hard to believe but we are such a staunch dragon-loving family that we have hand-made dragon eyes of all shapes, sizes and colors, both ferocious as well as friendly, peeking out at us from various corners of our home – the refrigerator magnets, on the doors of the wardrobe in the kids’ room and even a menacing pair on the door of their room proclaiming: ‘Enter at your own risk!’

Let’s talk about three popular dragon story books for kids which my kids are big fans of as well.

How to Train Your Dragon (by Cressida Cowell)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

First and foremost on the list has to be the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. The story narrates the transformation of the quiet, thoughtful son of the village chief into an extraordinary Viking hero. Those who have watched the DreamWorks movies based on the story may not find it exactly like the movie but it makes for a captivating read nonetheless. And yes, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III might sound like a scary character, but in the story he is the exact opposite of ‘horrendous’ – polite, kind, modest, ever ready to help. The places they explore are dangerous at times but then the Hiccup gang provides a wonderful sense of comic relief to the story, both in the book and the movies.

The Reluctant Dragon (by Kenneth Grahame)

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Image courtesy: Usborne Books at Home

Funny, cute and whimsical – this sums up the story of The Reluctant Dragon. Colorful illustrations make this picture book a hit with young audiences. The English might be a little old world for today’s kids – after all, this classic was published way back in the year 1938 – but the story remains evergreen till date. A dragon who loves poetry becomes friends with a young boy. However, the townsfolk are of the view that a dragon is a dragon and deserves to be slayed, come what may. Now it is up to the young friend of our friendly dragon to come up with a plan to save his life from the people out to destroy him. The Walt Disney movie based on the book was released as an American live action and animated film in 1941.

Eragon (by Christopher Paolini)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Who knew that a polished, blue-colored stone found in the forest would bring forth something that is nothing short of extraordinary – a dragon hatchling? Along with it come all sorts of hitherto unknown magic, accompanied with dangerous enemies, including an extremely evil king. Call it fiction, fantasy, adventure or simply an amalgamation of all three, but as the story of Eragon unfolds, one is left waiting eagerly to find out what happens next as you turn the pages. The movie based on the novel came out back in 2006, an enjoyable adventure flick which the entire family can watch for movie nights at home together.

Wish to add to this list?

Good News & Bad News for Dragon Lovers

Well, for all you dragon lovers out there, we’ve got both good news and bad news. To make you feel better in the end, here’s the bad news first. The release date of How to Train Your Dragon 3, earlier slated for 2018, has been pushed back yet again to March 1, 2019 (which, we admit, is a long time away *sob*). Notwithstanding the fact that the third movie in the series is bound to be a tearjerker of sorts, with our beloved Toothless being drawn away from his best friend and master in addition to our hero having to take some extremely difficult decisions in order to save mankind, this ‘culmination of Hiccup’s coming of age’ is undoubtedly something all of us are eager to watch.

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Image courtesy: PasteMagazine

Now, for the good news – to assuage your sadness, here’s what you should do. Come February 15, just visit the stands and pick up the brand new graphic novel called How to Train Your Dragon: The Serpent’s Heir. The best part? Its story begins right where the second film ended, so you can perhaps make do for now with the gripping tale of how Hiccup and the gang encounter a new enemy with a deadly dragon on an earthquake-plagued island. Rest assured, if the news pieces doing the rounds are anything to go by, the graphic story turns as thrilling as the films as you eventually turn the pages. Definitely some spectacular fire-breathing action in the offing!

Go Dragon Crafty this New Year

Happy Holidays to all you dragon lovers out there! This New Year Eve I was looking around for some interesting crafts to try my hand at with the kids and the Chinese New Year dragons came to mind. What’s more, I found two really cool yet simple dragon crafts while surfing the internet and decided they would make great decorations for our kids who love anything and everything dragon too – dragon games, dragon art, dragon comics, dragon cartoons and dragon everything else. Here goes, sharing them with you.

Hand Print Dragon

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Image courtesy: Activity Village

What you need:

  • Different colored chart papers (Black, blue, red and yellow)
  • Glue
  • Pencil
  • Black sketch pen
  • A pair of scissors

What to do:

Ask your child to draw out their handprints using pencil on the chart papers (at least 6). Now, help them cut out the colored hands along the drawn lines using the pair of scissors. Two legs and a tail need to be drawn similarly on the chart paper and cut out too (preferably on red paper). For the head, you could either print out a readymade dragon head template from the internet or else put your kids’ artistic skills to work and let them draw the head of a dragon, with the venomous tongue protruding out, evil black eyes marked out with black sketch pen and all. Cut this out too. Now, glue on the cut-out handprints in a line back to back, with the fingers all pointing towards one direction. The tail is stuck on at on end and the head at the opposite end, with the legs forming part of the lower section of the body. Voila! Your bright and colorful Chinese New Year dragon is ready. Simply punch in holes in the head and tail and insert a string through them to hang up the craft, or just put it up over your kids’ table using pins. Remember – the longer the handprint body, the better and brighter your dragon will be!

Paper Plate Dragon

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Image courtesy: Learn with play at home

What you need:

A paper plate

Black sketch pen

A pair of scissors

Adhesive tape or a stapler

Crayons/paints/buttons/pieces of fabric/glitter

What to do:

In the first step, cut the paper plate exactly into half from the middle using the pair of scissors. Now cut one of the halved pieces into half again – that makes it a total of 4 pieces. Now, take hold of the one-fourth cut out portion of the plate and cut out the rim part of it. Cut out the inner side of the rim into a jagged border with a pointed edge for the tail of the dragon. Ask your child to draw a dragon face – be it friendly or ferocious or both – on the remaining quarter from which the rim has been cut out. The two smallest pieces of the paper plate need to have jagged edges too, since a dragon’s body is all spiny – these would make the wings of our monster. Now, decorate your dragon – this is the most fun part of this craft activity. Your child could use anything – from paints, crayons, old fancy bits of fabric, buttons, ribbons – after all, who really knows what dragons actually looked like? All we know is that they have rough, scaly bodies so the more colorful, the better it is! Once the paints and glue have all dried up, staple the pieces of paper plate together. You could use adhesive tape to make sure the pieces hold together too. Black eyes, bulbous nostrils and a smiling mouth complete your craft! A fun dangler for the kids’ room.

Both these crafts remind me of the traditional Chinese dragon dance that forms an intrinsic part of the New Year celebrations there every year. Here’s hoping you have a ferociously fantastic New Year 2017!

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving the Dragon Way

What do kids (and adults) look forward to the most when it comes to Thanksgiving? The elaborate feast, of course! Turkey with stuffing and buttery mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce… Yummy! Well, do you suppose dragons would love these traditional Thanksgiving recipes too? Going by the book titled The Dragon Thanksgiving Feast: Things to Make and Do by Loreen Leedy, they apparently enjoy these as well as other fun activities related to this festive occasion as much as any one of us do.

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Image courtesy: Paperback Swap

Right from putting up decorations in your home to trying your hand at crafts and Thanksgiving games, this book is a fun rhyming story about the bright blue dragons who are preparing in their own way for the celebration. The colorful and expressive illustrations are perfect to hold a young reader’s attention as he or she finds their way through the story. What’s more, one can even try whipping up a couple of the simple recipes mentioned – the pumpkin cornbread or a scrumptious munch and crunch salad. Kids will enjoy how this Thanksgiving story seems to come alive with the step-by-step instructions on doing up the house and having fun with party games involving family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween with the Dragons

For all the young minds that love dragons and Halloween and everything spooky yet fun, Dragon’s Halloween by Dav Pilkey is the ideal book to be read this ghostly season.

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Image courtesy: Scholastic

Who doesn’t enjoy spooky Halloweens? So does the endearing blue Dragon in the story, who is more cute than scary. He arrives at the pumpkin patch with plans to celebrate the festival in his own unique manner, but alas! All of the bigger-sized pumpkins have already gone. He ends up laying his hands on six small pumpkins instead.

The story goes on to narrate how he manages to convert those pumpkins into a large, formidably carved jack-o’-lantern, visits a Halloween party wearing a particularly spine-chilling costume (a pumpkin actually lands on his head) and also is terrified of his very own whining and grumbling empty stomach while walking through a pitch-dark forest.

The illustrations add more life and color to the already exciting tale. And for those who love pumpkins, the extremely appetizing pumpkin food drawings are like the icing on the cake.

Ideal for kindergarten and up, the Dragon’s Halloween makes for an exceedingly enjoyable read.

3 Fun Dragon Games & Apps for Kids

I recently came across an article here which talked about why we should be sharing old, traditional stories which involve dragons, fairies and Greek Gods with our kids. That made me think about how the world today has changed from how we knew it back when we were kids; then, it was all about books and stories like Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud, Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey and The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French, among others. But now, it’s more about online video games and mobile apps involving dragons than old folklore and story books.

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Dragon” by AnoviJoe is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here are three dragon games and apps which are very popular with kids today.

Dragon City

The primary goal of Dragon City is to rear and raise dragons to turn into a ‘dragon master’ – the player needs to provide food for them to grow, nurture them, ensure they are well suited to their natural habitats and surroundings and also have sparring matches with other dragons. The best way to earn virtual currency – ‘free gems’ – is by participating in surveys within the game, in addition to completing certain other activities that enable you to progress more rapidly through the initial levels. Kids love it because the dragons appear to be cute and friendly creatures. You can also build a magical world in Dragon City through the Dragon City mobile apps on platforms like Android and iOS.

School of Dragons

Best suited for kids aged 10 years and above, the School of Dragons is a popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) which is a big hit with both kids and parents alike – kids because of the much-loved game characters based on the DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon movie series; and parents love it since the dragon games are full of underlying educational scientific themes, which help in students learning about various concepts of science, all the while playing with their favorite characters and dragons. The game begins by hatching dragon eggs, acquiring food for them from various sources and eventually preparing them for combat. This one is available on all major mobile platforms as well.

Jurassic Story Dragon Games

Kids who love dragons would definitely wish to keep dinosaurs as pets too! This game is all about raising several dinosaurs in a park (kids will especially adore the cute little baby dragons), breeding and collecting these creatures using a series of hints, working their way through very realistic islands, valleys and volcanoes, looking for rare dragon and dinosaur eggs through simple strategy games and the like. The player earns more coins and jewels as he progresses through the game. Easy, fun and enjoyable – the Jurassic Story Dragon Games are a complete package of sorts.

Wish to add any more to the list?