Darien is a creative ten-year-old girl who wishes to escape her dull and predictable life. She loves to read, draw, and daydream, despite her parents’ efforts to teach her to be practical. But when a stormy day brings Darien together with her peculiar neighbor, strange things begin to happen.
Miss Mildred–or Miss Mildew, as she is called behind her back–lives across the street from Darien. Old-fashioned and stern, Miss Mildred agrees to babysit Darien for the day and shares her secret box of mysterious paints. Using the power of her imagination and her painting skills, Darien creates a doorway to another world; a world full of turmoil and unrest. She unexpectedly finds herself in the other world, caught up in a quest to find justice for dragons and humans alike.
Come along with Darien on a magical adventure as she encounters bizarre creatures, confronts a bad-tempered dragon, flees from a wicked king, attempts a daring rescue, and tries to find the courage to believe in something real–herself.
Ten-year-old Darien tries her best not to be a disappointment to her parents by escaping into a world of daydream, but when the neighborhood witch is asked to babysit her at the last moment, adventure begins. After trying to figure out how to spend her rainy afternoon, Darien finally settles on an art project using concentrated paints in a mysterious old box and wrapping paper supplied by her babysitter, Miss Millie (or, as Darien thinks of her, "Miss Mildew"). The more Darien paints, the more her painting becomes alive—until she falls into the painting and into a land where she is challenged with the daunting task of saving dragons from the wicked King Radburn. In this strange, new world, dragons are captured and killed by hunters because their scales turn into gold. Armani, the son of captured dragons Audric and Brisa, joins Darien on a perilous quest to rescue the imprisoned creatures before they are killed. With obvious nods to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and C. S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia," this slim volume is a quick read and suspenseful start to a fantasy series. Readers may appreciate Darien's workaholic and preoccupied parents. They may also relate to underlying themes of racism and bullying. Black-and-white illustrations interspersed throughout help move the story along. A strong debut with a confident female protagonist.—Gwen Collier, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, NY