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Between a Roc and a Hard Place by Danny Birt
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Between a Roc and a Hard Place (edition 2010)

by Danny Birt, Richard Svensson (Illustrator)

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2916378,207 (3.38)12
reneemrobbins's review
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book to be interesting, but I question the appeal it would have for young readers. The vocabulary in the book was quite advanced for a young reader and the story was a little slow for a teen. I enjoyed the story, but wished it would have gone into more depth. ( )
  reneemrobbins | Dec 24, 2010 |
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Showing 16 of 16
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book to be interesting, but I question the appeal it would have for young readers. The vocabulary in the book was quite advanced for a young reader and the story was a little slow for a teen. I enjoyed the story, but wished it would have gone into more depth. ( )
  reneemrobbins | Dec 24, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Humans have been tracking one of the last living dragons near their community. In an effort to save some of her newly laid eggs, the dragon gathers two in her arms and flies away. The hunters wound her and she is only able to save one egg by leaving it in a warm nest. That is how Tephra is born into a large family of Roc birds.

This was a nice little story about being different, what it means to be family, and finding your niche. There are nice illustrations scattered through out the book that will appeal to young readers. This will probably be a good choice for kids who are expanding their reading level to small chapter books, especially if they enjoy fantasy stories. More developed readers may find the story a little too basic for their liking. ( )
  readr | Dec 20, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
My 12 year old son read this book and he loved it. I'd hear him laughing out loud way past his bedtime. Adventure, vocabulary, humor; what more do you want! A short book, but a fun one. ( )
  dwesner | Dec 16, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Between a Roc and a Hard Place is a twist on the Ugly Duckling story. The story starts off with the tragedy of Hunters coming to destroy a dragon's nest. The mother is able to escape with one egg and plants it in a nest where she thinks the egg will survive. We then find a large bird, called a Roc, come back to check on her own eggs. What she finds is an addition to the story. Once hatched the mother and father Roc accept the dragon as their own. This story takes us through the hardships of an adoptive family and some of the hardships that they face. ( )
  kirbyowns | Dec 13, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I start of with saying this didn't seem to me much like a children's book. It is not something I would give to my sister (8) or brother (5) to read.
It wasn't exactly an adults book either. Just seemed stuck in the middle. Like it started off with trying to be a story for children, but then went to a more grown-up pace, then remembered, and went children's-story again.
It was certainly a clever twist on The Ugly Duckling. Kind of. It seemed to be slightly based on that children's story.
I loved all the characters and the history behind the story. And well, dragons, and I can't help but love dragons. Especially one who is adviser to critters over such a large area and strives to protect her territories. ( )
1 vote FantasyGirl2 | Nov 21, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Between a Roc and a Hard Place is a cute little book that starts off as a kind of fish out of water story and ends up delivering a message about cooperation and environmentalism. Aimed at younger readers, the book is short, and a quick read to boot, which is both a strength and weakness for the book. Because it is short and quick, a younger reader is more likely to actually finish the book, but the story the author wanted to tell seems too large for the limited space it is packed into. As a result, some of the fantastical elements aren't explained well enough and a lot of the story development is presented in a manner that feels hurried.

The opening chapter shows the desperate attempts of a female dragon to save at least some of her unhatched offspring from the predations of a group of dragon hunters intent upon slaying her and her progeny. The chapter is actually the best done part of the entire book, putting the reader in the middle of the action, giving just enough information to give a clear idea what is happening without bogging the narrative down in extraneous detail. The problem I had with the book is that this doesn't last too much further into the book, which becomes increasingly about telling the reader about what the characters have done rather than showing them in action, glossing over large chunks of character and plot development. For example, a later critical plot development - the fact that a nearby human king is gathering forces to try to kill the main character - is related to the main character as a second hand retelling of a third hand rumor.

And this is a shame, because the broad strokes of the story are fairly interesting, even if the message, which ends up with the central character taking on the role of both the bridge between two (and eventually three) opposed groups and the world's most dangerous park ranger, is somewhat simplistic. Given the age range that this book is clearly targeted to, a simplistic message is probably what is called for, but it would have been nice to have just a little nuance in the story. Since the story is told in such broad strokes, almost all of the characters remain almost entirely undeveloped. The real weakness is that the fantasy elements are dropped into the mix without a whole lot of explanation, which seems to me likely to confuse readers of the intended age group. I also noted a couple instances of language that was probably too complex for the intended age group, such as a reference to "aviafauna".

As a whole, this book is only average. While the plot of the story is interesting, and there is a potentially really good young adult fantasy here, the weak character development and the extraordinarily broad brush used to deliver the story weakens the end product. If the characters and story had been more fleshed out, this could have been a brilliant book. In the end however, while the book is a decent little tale, but doesn't rise above that.

This review has also been posted to my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
1 vote StormRaven | Nov 16, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a pretty quick read. I liked the combination of it having a reptiles vs. bird history and folklore, and that it wrapped itself up so tightly in such a small tale. It's written quite whimsically in parts, but I liked it much more than I originally thought I would. The character naming schemes are interesting. Like the main characters name I didn't understand immediately, but when she explains it later it once again fits into the overall narrative of the tale. ( )
  whisperingfen | Nov 16, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
When I got this book my wife suggested we read it aloud together (taking turns) and I agreed it would be a fun thing to do, so we did. I can say this book reads well out loud. We spent about 45-60 minutes 3 different nights to read it. A word of caution, Danny likes his dictionary and Thesaurus and it shows. He likes to sprinkle in few words that your average 9-10 year old probably won't know, so be prepared for questions! This is a chapter book with illustrations and I thought they were pretty good.

Tephra is a dragon who was left as an egg in the nest of a family of Rocs, who then raised her like their own. She knew she was different but she didn't know why. We follow Tephra as she grows up into adulthood and becomes the leader and protector of her community.

It starts out as an ugly duckling story but grows into so much more. Wonderful story and makes great moral points few would disagree with such as, just because you have the power to make someone do something doesn't mean you should. It doesn't beat you over the head with them. I might have to read it to my nieces and nephews sometime. ( )
  readafew | Nov 11, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This story has so much potential, but it needs a little more work. The ending came on a little too quickly, and was not up to par with the rest of the story. I also thought the male dragon, B’Fwial, was a little lame and superficial in not agreeing to be Tephra’s mate until he saw what she really looked like. In his words “So I want to see you. The real you”. He already expressed admiration of her personality and intelligence, wasn’t that the real Tephra? Was she beautiful or ugly, he wanted to know, and would not agree to be her mate until he found out. You will have to read the story to discover what he found out.

The illustrations were magnificent. I especially enjoyed the one with the dragon, the king, and the parrot, which was a terrific choice of graphic for that chapter. Overall I did enjoy this story and hope the author writes more, but takes more time in giving the ending of the story the same amount of depth as the beginning. ( )
1 vote mariah2 | Nov 11, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I got a copy of this book through Librarything's Early Reviewer program. It was a fun and cute little book. Aimed at middle grader readers or younger children; it has cute illustrations, delivers a good message, and is fun.

When a mother dragon is hunted down by humans she is able to save one of her eggs; before she dies she places it a Roc's nest. The Roc parents (like giant eagles) are puzzled by the appearance of another egg in their nest but raise the little dragon girl as one of there own and name her Tephra. As Tephra gets older things get interesting and she discovers she is not at bird at all but a dragon. Tephra uses her unique position to get the animals to work together and defend their mountain region from human invasion.

This is a super cute book. There are nicely done illustrations throughout the story. Quite a bit of time passes between each chapter so we get to see Tephra at various points throughout her life. Some of the book is pretty funny as Tephra discovers she is not a bird at all but a dragon.

There are a lot of good messages her that focus on acceptance, love in a family, and working together with people who are different to achieve a peaceful goal. Tephra often reflects on the fact that things that seemed horrible when they happened actually turned out okay in the end. It is nice to see that Tephra takes a positive attitude and tries the make the best out her circumstances.

Overall this was a great book. It would be good for middle grade or younger children; teens and adults will find it a bit simplistic and possibly a bit too short for a completely satisfying read. I will be keeping an eye on Birt to see what other children's books he writes in the future. For the short length, this story packs a lot of story and a lot of goodness. ( )
  krau0098 | Nov 10, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
My first impression was "it's a story of The Ugly Duckling" retold with a dragon, perhaps with a mixture of the saying "Between a sword and the wall" (impossible/hard decisions). Instead, I found traces of other themes like family, cooperation, understanding, and even love.

I also liked the names of the dragons in the story and how they seemed to represent some natural aspect. For a children's book I think the illustrations could have been colored although I do not think it is a requierement. Also, the conflicts seemed to easily appear and resolve leaving most of the book with a filler kind of story telling. Questions you might ponder with children are: Did Tephra ever hunt for food? Did she improve her flying? What happened after the agreement with the King? Did they fall in line or was there a King who refuse and waged war? Perhaps stories left for other books. ( )
1 vote hrrivera44 | Nov 9, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Danny Birt's book, Between a Roc and a Hard Place, is the story of a dragon raised by rocs when dragons of this particular land have been hunted to near extinction. Tephra the dragon grows to be a protector of animals in her habitat and must learn how to prevent humans from killing her and destroying her land. This story has elements that remind me of Native American stories intermingled with ideas about protecting the environment. I liked how it avoided getting too preachy. For example, hunting is acceptable in moderation, since many of the animals in the story must hunt to live. The story about the creation of the first dragon reminded me of many myths from different cultures.

The dragons themselves had names that described them, like WarmthInMorningSunAfterALongWinterNight, which also gave it a Native American feel. That said, I didn't like the use of acronyms. The above dragon's acronym name was Wimsaalwn, which made sense to me, each word is represented by a letter. But every other dragon name mentioned did not follow this rule. Her mate's name, SurfsTheStormsAndLaughsAtTheLightning, is shortened to Stalatl, and I couldn't understand why the second S should be left off. It became a distraction for me, along with shifting between acronyms and full names. I would have preferred one way or the other, but both methods together kept pulling me out of the story.

I also thought some of the characters could have benefited from a little more depth and I would have liked to see more scenes of Tephra growing up with her roc siblings. Things seemed to move a bit fast at times, even for a children's story. Conflicts arose, but appeared to be settled to easily. I would have liked to see some of the scenes that were only discussed, like Tephra's desire to fly in spite of her roc parents' protectiveness or some side stories about how she learned to manage her land and get the animals to work together. I did enjoy the story and the ideas of working together and protecting your family, even if that family is not comprised of others who are related to you. The illustrations are beautiful. Overall, I enjoyed the story and simply wished there were more of it. ( )
  jugglingpaynes | Nov 8, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I quite enjoyed this story, and will be passing it on to my 10 year old daughter for her further review :-) The story was very well thought out and nicely written, and did a good job of showing the importance of cooperation and family, despite differences.

My only complaint with this book is the ending. I thought that the author could have added another chapter describing the results of the dragon's compromise with humans, rather than leaving it to the imagination. Sequel, maybe? ( )
  ljbryant | Nov 8, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book had me from the cover. I love dragons. I mean I really love dragons. And while the title doesn't say it, the cover certainly does. There's a baby dragon sitting in a nest of bird chicks.

The author, Danny Birt, pulled off an adorable children's book that was completely worth it. There are many lessons taught from the idea that family is what you make of it to defeating racism. A poor orphaned dragon is given to a nest of birds, of rocs, and is raised with a family so entirely different than itself that it learns many lessons that those of its kind never had before.

I completely enjoyed reading this book, especially when I found that it was more than the standard ugly duckling book that it appeared to be at first. ( )
  jblackowicz | Nov 6, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A modern fairy tale and a pleasant little read. Kids who like mythology and adventure should enjoy it. Parents who look for positive moral stories will be grateful. (Thankfully, it is NOT one of those heavy-handed, preach-a-message types.)

A desperate dying dragon mother leaves her last egg in a roc's nest. Ma Roc notices that one of her offspring is, well, a tad different but loves her anyway. Strong female leads though the males are played for laughs - but they have their good points too. Follow our admirable lady dragon's adventures from birth to maturity (10 human lifetimes!).

The kids will probably just enjoy the adventures. Parents may want to expand on the themes of adoption, what makes a family, the value of cooperation, doing the right thing even when it's hard, etc. But NO preaching! Just enjoy :-)

Nicely detailed pen and ink illustrations throughout. ( )
  PitcherBooks | Nov 6, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a very cute book. I enjoyed it from the beginning to end. A wonderful story that you can read to younger children and a perfect story for a third grader to pick up to read. At first I thought it was going to be a fantasy version of "The Ugly Duckling". I was very happy to learn that it was not. It seemed to be going there at the beginning, but the author made it so much more than that.

It has a great story line, and teaches that no matter how things may look at the beginning, things can always be a blessing in disguise if you wait long enough. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has children. I'm passing it on to my daughters to read next! ( )
  Dranea | Nov 4, 2010 |
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