Bruce Coville was my original favorite author. (Technically and officially, J.R.R. Tolkien has that forever spot in my heart, but as a child, I always differentiated between the dead and the living.) The first book of his I read was Into the Land of the Unicorns, and from there I started picking up his Magic Shop book series. I collected his books with a passion, digging them out of discount bins, scanning titles on thrift shop shelves, and, of course, buying his most recent books the week they came out. I also frequented his website, http://brucecoville.com/, where I was able to compose little messages to him—messages he always responded to. And of course, I sent him whole letters via snail mail, which he also responded to. (One letter he was a bit late replying to, so to make it up, he sent me a copy of the prologue to his then-not-published book Dark Whispers.) I always admired how he treated his fans; that, and his wonderfully imaginative stories, is what earned his place in my heart.
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher is my favorite book of his, and is part of his Magic Shop series. The Magic Shop series also includes the titles Jennifer Murdley’s Toad; The Monster’s Ring; Juliet Dove, Queen of Love; and The Skull of Truth. Each of these books can stand on their own spines. A reader can pick up any one of these books to start the series and not feel lost, as there are only two real things that connect them, Mr. Elive’s Magic Shop, and the librarian Hyacinth Priest.
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher begins in art class, where the title character is attempting to draw a dragon. Dissatisfied by his drawing, Jeremy tries to get a second piece of paper to start over, only to be stopped by his embittered art teacher, and then embarrassed by the same teacher a few minutes later when he’s passed a love note and the teacher decides to read it aloud. The note promises Jeremy that the sender, a girl named Mary Lou, will give him a kiss after school, and prompts the boy to flee the campus as soon as the school day ends. As he runs, he finds himself in a strange neighborhood (“That wouldn’t have been so strange in a city. But Blodgett’s Crossing was a small town. I’ve lived here all my life. How can I be lost?”) and sees an “old-fashioned shop” labeled: Elives’ Magic Supplies, S. H. Elives, Prop. In the shop he meets the proprietor, Mr. Elives, and buys a dragon egg for a quarter. Jeremy rushes home with the egg and special instructions that he must follow to the letter.
“Full moon’s light to wake the egg,
Full moon’s light to hatch it;
Midsummer’s Night will crack the world,
But St. John’s Day will patch it.”
According to Jeremy’s veterinarian father, the next full moon was that night, and though Jeremy doesn’t quite believe he has a dragon’s egg, he’s curious enough to try it out. He sneaked out at midnight, found a patch of moonlight, and waited. Three hours later and the little dragon begins to hatch! Jeremy rushes the hatchling inside, keeping its egg shards safe as they crumble away. When the dragon tumbles out on his desk, Jeremy begins getting colors swirling inside his head, bringing odd sensations of emotions and questions. The next morning, Jeremy checks his hatching instructions only to find that the instructions have changed from hatching to raising. After feeding the dragon a delicious breakfast of chicken liver, Jeremy decides ton conduct some additional research at his public library.
He finds the librarian, Hyacinth Priests, and asks for information concerning dragons. She takes a special interest in the topic and helps him find a stack of books for him to comb though. Though he finds several names that could possibly fit his new dragon (like Niddhogg), none of the books cover raising dragons. When he again asks Hyacinth, she retrieves a book from behind her counter that has no picture or title on the cover, but inside is written On the Nature (and Disappearance) of Dragons by S. H. Elives.When he asks where the book came from, Hyacinth vaguely replies that she had been saving it for him, and that he may take it home, where he should read it very carefully.
Drawn home by and overwhelming hunger, Jeremy walks into his room to find thelittle dragon trying to eat his pet guinea pigs. He quickly figures out that it had been the dragon’s hunger he had been feeling and sharing, and he is in the middle of trying to convince the dragon not to eat his pets when his mother comes in to investigate the source of the disturbance. Even with the dragon perched on his shoulder, Jeremy’s mother was somehow obvlious to its presence, and once she had accepted Jeremy’s quick explanation of all the noise, she reminded him of his weekend duties and left. After finally managing to feed the little creature, Jeremy has to create mental images to ask the dragon why his mother couldn’t see it. The dragon casually explains with a menal oimage of its own that the dragon was invisible to her. Satisfied, Jeremy sates the dragon with a large bowl of milk and completes his chores before coming backto wake the dragon and begin naming her. He tries several different names , such as Fafnir and Smaug, but the dragon finally settles on Tiamat, and Jeremy learns that the dragon is, in fact, female.
After this revelation, he is visited by his friend, Specimen, or “Spess,” who also cannot see Tiamat. Spess helps him search for the mysterious magic shop, but they cannot seem to find it. Tired, hungry, and therefore irritable, the two boys have an argument and split ways. Their anger didn’t last, and they were friends again the next day at school–even though Jeremy wasn’t too keen on going back. Avoiding Mary Lou was tricky, but Jeremy managed to make it to art class without incident. In art class, however, he got in trouble for drawing a dragon when he was supposed to be drawing a fruit bowl. As the teacher tried to make him start over, Jeremy was seized with sudden panic, and once again raced out of the school, screaming that he was going to puke. When he came home, he found Tiamat perched ontop of his bookshop, and that Mary Lou had followed him home from school–and that she could see Tiamat. He kicks her out of his room, and with the only explanation of her seeing Tiamat being her love of dragons.
Tiamat continues to wreak havoc on Jeremy’s life. Jeremy’s parents have a special dinner with Mary Lou’s family, and Tiamat escapes Jeremy’s room and begins terrorizing the cats, ruining the dinner. Then while he is at school, she escapes again to comfort the distraught Jeremy, staying close to him throughout the day. When Jeremy’s least favorite teacher, his art teacher Mr. Kravitz, makes an announcement regarding the much anticipated art contest, Jeremy gets irritated, and accidentally provokes Tiamat to set Mr. Kravitz’s foot on fire. This prompts Mr. Kravitz to withold the art contest from his class until the culprit confessed, which greatly disappoints both Jeremy and Spess. On the way home, Jeremy saves a cat from his bully, only to have the bully turn on him instead. Tiamat comes to his defense, but gets hurt in the bully’s blind thrashing. Jeremy takes Tiamat home to get medicine for her wing, and his dad almost sees her, but instead gets medicine for Jeremy’s wound, sparing a little extra at Jeremy’s request.
Jeremy finds a letter from Mr. Elives intructing him to bring Tiamat, her shed skin, teeth, and whatever pieces of eggshell he’d managed to save, to him on Midsummer’s Night, which he learns ins June 23rd, the last day of school. Though Tiamat is excited about going “home,” both she and Jeremy are sad at the idea of being separated. Unfortunately, Tiamat is growing at a rapid rate, aand Jeremy has to move her out to his parent’s barn, keeping track of hrgrowth on the stalwalls. Still broken hearted at the thought of losing his dragon friend, he tells Mary Lou everything, and she offers to help provide food. As the two weeks start to run out, Jeremy has to confess to giving Mr. Kravitz the hot foot so that his class could join the art contest. Despite not believing his confession, Mr. Kravitz reinstates the class in the contest–all except for Jeremy.
As Tiamat continues to grow, she starts letting Jeremy mount and join her during her midnight flights.These become Jeremy’s favorite part of the day, even though it wears on him. On their last day together, Jeremy asks Tiamat why she chose him, and she responds,
“I liked the colors in your head. I knew we could share beautiful pictures.”
She then bows her head and cries a single tear, which falls as a diamond into Jeremy’s hand. That night, Jeremy gathers Tiamat’s shed skin, teeth, and shell as instructed, but decides to keep her diamond tear for his own, and sneaks out to meet Mr. Elives at “Main and Not Main.” Instead, he meets Hyacinth Priest, and she leads him and Tiamat to the Magic Shop, which is now located in the middle of a forest clearing. Mr. Elives greets the trio, and Hyacinth begins building a small gate out of Tiamt’s skin, teeth, and shell. Jeremy confesses that he doesn’t want Tiamat to leave, and Hyacinth gently explains to him that Tiamat is a part of him, and will never truly leave him. Even so, as Tiamat leaves, Jeremy’s heart begs for her to stay, accidentally trapping the dragon halfway through the portal. Mr. Elives and Hyacinth tell him to release her, warning him that she could die trapped as she was, and though it breaks his heart, Jeremy lets her go.
Over the summer, Jeremy slipped into despair, stopped drawing, and stopped spending time with his friends. It wasn’t until All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) that he began to feel like himself again. Slipping away from his parent’s Halloween party to Tiamat’s stall, Jeremy retrieved Tiamat’s diamond tear and cried. Then he suddenly felt Tiamat’s presence, and knew that, once again, their minds had been linked. He could see Tiamat, and see Tiamat’s world, though he remained on Earth. That connection revived his broken heart, and he once again began to draw.
Recommended Reading Age: 8-12
Favorite Character: Hyacinth Priest, because she’s a character that reappears throughout the Magic Shop books, and she’s always supportive of the main character, a steady person that understands what the child is going through.
Favorite Scene: When Tiamat sets Mr. Kravitz’s foot on fire.
Favorite Quote: “Nothing you love is lost. Not really. Things, people–they always go away, sooner or later. You can’t hold them, any more than you can hold moonlight. But if they’ve touched you, if they’re inside you, then they’re still yours. The only things you ever really have are the ones you hold inside your heart.”
Coville, Bruce. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002.
 Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, pg. 6
 Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, pg. 17
 Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, pg. 138