Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey



Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey 978-0689860089, Aladdin; First Edition edition (April 1, 2003)

Plot Summary:

The fishing village of Half Circle Hold is very traditional. Men fish, women prepare the fish for market, and only a man can be a Harper. While Harper Petiron was alive, Menolly’s parents were willing to overlook her oddities. Now that he is dead, they want her to give up her dreams. She learns that her mother had deliberately botched the healing of menolly’s hand after a fish gutting accident in order to keep her from playing and she runs away from the Sea Hold. Menolly is just barely able to avoid being caught out in threadfall. Thread are deadly spores that rain down on the planet of Pern and destroy all organic material that it comes in contact with. Menolly is able to find a cave just in time to save herself and to bond with nine fire lizards, small flying lizards of limited intelligence that are able to communicate telepathically and teleport. 

Critical Evaluation: 

Readers should be fairly warned: Pern novels are addictive and numerous. Pern is a very comprehensive setting. Like the Marion Zimmer Bradley’s planet of Darkover, Pern is a Terran (Earth) colony that has forgotten it is a colony. Pern has a history that spans the time when humans first landed on the Pern, to 2,500 years after the landing. Pern society has built up around the threat of Threadfall. Thread are spores that fall from the sky and burn all organic matter that they touch. Thread are unable to penetrate rock, and so the Pernese live in Holds made out of stone. Dragonriders, who ride out into threadfall and burn the spores before they can destroy food sources are much revered. Although Dragonsong has a great setting, and a well constructed plot, the characters do fall flat at times and feel a little one dimensional. Characters seem to be only either out to get Menolly or fall in the sternly kind category. 

Information about the author:

Anne McCaffrey was born on April 1st, 1926, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 1:30 p.m., in the hour of the Sheep, year of the Fire Tiger, sun sign Aries with Taurus rising and Leo mid-heaven (which seems to suggest an early interest in the stars).

Her parents were George Herbert McCaffrey, BA, MA PhD (Harvard), Colonel USA Army (retired), and Anne Dorothy McElroy McCaffrey, estate agent. She had two brothers: Hugh McCaffrey (deceased 1988), Major US Army, and Kevin Richard McCaffrey, still living.

Anne was educated at Stuart Hall, Staunton Virginia, Montclair High School, Montclair, New Jersey, and graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, majoring in Slavonic Languages and Literatures.

Anne McCaffrey has tried to live up to her auspicious natal day. Her first novel was written in Latin class and might have brought her instant fame, as well as an A, if she had written it in that ancient language. Much chastened by teacher and father, she turned to the stage and became a character actress, appearing in the first successful summer music circus in Lambertsville, NJ. She studied voice for nine years and, during that time, became intensely interested in the stage direction of opera and operetta, ending that phase of her experience with the direction of the American premiere of Carl Orff’s LUDUS DE NATO INFANTE MIRIFICUS in which she also played a witch.

Her working career included Liberty Music Shops and Helena Rubinstein (1947-1952). She married in 1950 and has three children: Alec Anthony, b. 1952, Todd, b.1956, and Georgeanne, b.1959.

Anne McCaffrey’s first story was published by Sam Moskowitz in Science Fiction + Magazine and her first novel was published by Ballantine Books in 1967. By the time the three children of her marriage were comfortably in school most of the day, she had already achieved enough success with short stories to devote full time to writing. Her first novel, Restoree, was written as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in s-f novels in the 50s and early 60s. It is, however, in the handling of broader themes and the worlds of her imagination, particularly the two series The Ship Who Sang and the fourteen novels about the Dragonriders of Pern that Ms. McCaffrey’s talents as a story-teller are best displayed.

Although she used to make appearances throughout the world as guest of honor at science fiction conventions, arthritis has now restricted such travel. She lives in a house of her own design, Dragonhold-Underhill (because she had to dig out a hill on her farm to build it) in Wicklow County, Ireland. It is not remotely like a castle, “on purpose,” she says to people who believe ‘hold’ is synonymous with ‘castle’ in Ireland.

Anne runs a private livery stable and her horses have been successful in Horse Trials and showjumping. She does not ride in competition, she hastens to add, but has enjoyed the success of horse and rider and, until recently, rode out on her black and white mare, Pi.

Reader’s Annotation:

Music is everything to fifteen year old Menolly, and when she is told that women cannot be a Harper she decides to run away.



Curriculum Ties:


Booktalking Ideas:

Talk about the setting of Pern.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 5 and up

Challenge Issues:


I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

It is still enjoyable after all these years.


One thought on “Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

  1. Pingback: Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall | DragonMommie's World

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