I want you to say something with me. Ready? Here we go:
Dragons and chocolate.
Have you ever heard of a more dangerously sweet combo? Actually, have you ever heard of this combo ever? Because when I first saw Stephanie Burgis's The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, I sure hadn't.
This was during 2017's #MGbooktober, a fantastic, month-long hashtag game on Twitter chock-full of middle grade book recommendations (some other favorites gleaned from 2017's #MGbooktober were Jessica Townsend's Nevermoor and James Riley's Story Thieves). A writer friend of mine, Christina, posted The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart for one of the prompts, and the moment the words "dragon" and "chocolate" registered in my brain, I was consumed with getting my hands on it. Even the summary made me snort. A dragon tricked into drinking enchanted hot chocolate turns into a human? And then becomes an apprentice at a chocolate house? What?!
Needless to say, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart didn't spend any time on my TBR pile. One short trip to the library and I was snuggled up on the couch wishing I had a cup of hot chocolate to keep me and my new chocolate-loving dragon book company. (Seriously, though, I posted on Twitter that readers will turn into dragons if they don't eat some form of chocolate while reading, and Stephanie kindly agreed!) Apart from the delectable delight that is this story, I was in for another surprise when first cracking the spine of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. One of my quirks as a reader is that I always read the acknowledgments + author bio before beginning a book - even if they're at the end. It's a compulsion, something I've done since childhood. I guess I like getting to know a bit about the author and how their book came to be before diving into the story. It gives me perspective and helps me care about what I'm reading.
And boy did I care even more about this dragon-turned-human girl-turned-chocolate apprentice when I found out that her author, Stephanie Burgis, was originally from Lansing, Michigan!
Yeah. This book had everything going for it.
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is the story of a young dragon named Aventurine who, feeling cooped up in her family's mountain, wants to prove that she is fierce enough and brave enough to take care herself outside the caves. How? By capturing a human. But when a food mage tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine has to adjust to a whole new lifestyle - one where she is a small, puny human girl with a dragon's soul pursuing her newfound passion: chocolate!
Apprenticing at a chocolate house, making human friends, and stopping her dragon family from scorching her new home to ashes are just a few of the obstacles Aventurine must face before the story's end. But armed with chocolate, friends, and determination, this girl can handle anything!
When I first read The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, the first thing I did - as always - was rave about it to my family. And they put together a surprise that still makes me grin:
("For Kristi, Happy birthday! Wishing you huge luck with your own passion for writing. I'll look forward to reading your books! Stephanie Burgis")
For my birthday, along with a box of the best chocolate EVER, Godiva, my family gave me a copy of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart personally signed by Stephanie Burgis herself! As a new author on sub to publishers, I'm not gonna lie: the idea that the author of one of my favorite books might one day read my own has kept me warm on many a cold night in the query trenches.
Yep, my family and I have big love for this spectacular lady and her glorious, chocolatey tales.
To spread the word, we take any gift-giving celebration as an opportunity to indulge the readers (and chocolate lovers!) in our lives with our tastiest present:
So what do I love so much about The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart? Let's say this book was a recipe. Here are the ingredients:
An unusual protagonist. Dragon girl chocolatier. Um, could you get any more creative? (Or hilarious to read?)
A grumpy mentor-figure. Gosh, I have such a soft spot for these. (A fact any of my beta readers can attest to.)
An awesome girl/girl friendship. Why don't we have more of this in MG? I can count on one hand the number of novels that have friendships between girls as a main focus.
Chocolate. Up until now, I could say with confidence that I never wanted to lick a book before. Smell them? Of course. Rub my cheek against the cover? You betcha. But lick them...don't judge me till you've read the mouth-watering descriptions of chocolate everything found in this book. You'll be drooling all over the pages in no time.
That's not all. You ready for some great news? 'Cause I have some great news. As I write this post, I've just finished the sequel to The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, The Girl with the Dragon Heart, and it is FABULOUS. So if you decide to read The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, you're basically signing up for two delectable adventures with some of the greatest girls of the genre. The Girl with the Dragon Heart follows the narrative of Aventurine's best friend Silke, and it builds on everything the first book worked so hard to create. But...that's a story for another Mitten Books special. ;) And though Stephanie Burgis no longer resides in Michigan (she's a U.K. girl now - how cool is that?!), she let me in on a little fun fact: half of The Girl with the Dragon Heart was written while she was visiting her old home in Lansing! So this book was truly "Written in the Mitten."
Better news still (and all of this has happened as I've been working on this blog post - talk about timing!), Stephanie just announced that a third book is being added to the ranks of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and The Girl with the Dragon Heart - collectively known as Tales from the Chocolate Heart - titled The Princess Who Flew with Dragons. *squee*
So what are you waiting for? Grab your favorite snack of chocolatey goodness and dive in!
(If you'd like to know more about Stephanie Burgis and her books, you can also read my Mitten Authors interview with her here!)
Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband and two sons, surrounded by mountains, castles and coffee shops. She writes fun MG fantasy adventures and has published five so far, including The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, The Girl with the Dragon Heart, and the Kat, Incorrigible trilogy (published in the UK as The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson). She also writes wildly romantic adult historical fantasies, most recently Snowspelled and Spellswept. You can find out more and read excerpts from all of her books on her website: www.stephanieburgis.com.
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