Cora and the Nurse Dragon by H. L. Burke


(Click on the link to pre-order this book for $0.99. The book comes out January 31st!)

(I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

I love this story. I read it about a month ago and I’m still delighted with it. I think the main reason for my enjoyment is the connection I felt to the main character, Cora. If you put her in a modern setting and gave her a love for horses instead of dragons, she’d be me.

This book had a special kind of magic. From the opening paragraph on, I loved every minute of it. Cora loves dragons and dreams of being a dragon jockey when she grows up. She saves her money up to hatch eggs but generally just gets short-lived mayflies . . . until one day! And her adventures begin.

The other reason I thought this story was super fun was the ‘80/’90’s save-the-animal feeling. You know those movies where a kid finds a wild animal, raises it, falls in love with it, and then tearfully has to . . . well I don’t want to spoil it, but there were tears! Like those fun kid movies, this book wasn’t too heavy handed or preachy about animal rights. It was more about treating animals kindly than denouncing evil humanity. (Sarcasm.)

This makes the book a perfect opening to talk to your kids about how we treat animals, and what is right and wrong about that. Another talking point this book provides is business. Cora and her best friend start their own company and there is some great moments of them trying to figure out how to cover their costs and still make a profit and what to do with that profit.

In summary, this book is a clean, fun adventure that has a few dark moments, but ends well with the added bonus of providing some great opportunities for conversation between readers.

I can’t wait to share this book with my two twelve-year-old nieces!

Rated: PG: I only say this because there are mistreated animals and the kids get tangled up with some bad people. There is no language, sex, or gratuitous violence. Again, think Dumbo Drop or something like that.


Courtesy of Google.

A Texas Cousins Adventure Story: Happy Endings (Part 2): The Story

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

(Part 1)

Curled up together while the autumn storm raged outside, nine cousins listened to Aunt Abby’s story:


Once upon a time, a ghost named Bruce haunted an old abandoned barn out in a cow pasture. He liked the barn with its old tin roof and gray pine-board walls worn down by wind and rain. He liked the old field with its tuffs of grass and wild flowers in the spring. But, Bruce was lonely. Haunting an old barn and scaring away kids was all good and fun, but sometimes he wished the kids would stay. He wished they’d run and scream with him instead of away from him.

One day, a brown and white puppy dog came sniffing around the barn.

“Hello!” Bruce called, floating up.

The puppy raised its nose from where he’d been sniffing a pile of trash and growled at the ghost.

Bruce darted back in the window of the barn. After waiting a moment, he peeked out. The puppy barked again. Bruce flew up through the floor to the dangerous second story. He counted to five: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.


Bark! Bark!


After several more attempts to not be barked at involving the gutters, the empty trough, and a blue glass bottle, Bruce realized they were playing hide and seek. He thought and thought for the best place to hide from the puppy. The old watering can? The fox hole in the barnyard? The chicken coop?

He tried each one and every time, bark! bark! the puppy found him.

Around and around the barn the ghost and the puppy raced. Here! There! Under! Over! In! and Out!

“Jude! Oh Jude!” a Princess shouted.

Bruce and the puppy came to a sudden halt.

“Jude? Where are you?”

The puppy gave a cheerful yip and raced out of the barn and into the Princesses arms. She cuddled him up and he licked and licked her face.

“Where have you been, silly dog?”

With a giant wiggle, the puppy escaped her hug. He tugged on her beautiful pink dress leading her back to the barn yard.

Bruce wisped through a wall. Playing with the puppy had been fun, but if this Princess swy him it’d be all back to screaming and running away. Bruce decided to hide for real and wafted all the way up to the very tip top of the barn.

“What is it Jude?” the Princess asked.

Jude barked at the ghost. Nothing. He barked again. No ghost.

Suddenly, an orange and brown owl, hooting indignantly, darted from the top of the barn. She spread her wings and gracefully swooped around and around the princess until she lighted on the ground.

“He’s hiding up there?” She pointed with her wing.

“What?” the Princess said unsurprised by the owl’s ability to talk. She was, after all, a very wise and round owl why shouldn’t she speak. “Who are you?”


“I’m Imogene the Owl. Jude wants you to meet his new friend, Bruce the ghost, but Bruce is hiding at the top of the barn.”


“He’s sure you’ll be afraid of him.”

“I’m not afraid! My fairy god-mother, Ellie, made me unafraid of everything.”

The owl blinked her two large eyes at the Princess. She never ceased to be amazed at the silly gifts fairies gave their charges. “Very well, I’ll go tell him.”

“I’ll come too,” the Princess said.

She hiked up her very full skirt and tromped into the barn with Jude at her heels.

Imogene shook her head at the silly, unafraid Princess, beat her wings, and flew back up to the roof to speak with Bruce before the something bad happened.


The floor creaked and groaned under the Princess’s every step as she made her way to the stairs leading up into the gloom. Several boards were missing, but being brave, she climbed over these with Jude under one arm until she reached the dangerous second floor. A shaft of weak light fell across a ladder on the other side of the room.

“We must climb that ladder!” The Princess exclaimed.

Jude sniffed the floor. He didn’t trust it one bit, but the Princess hurried across.


Up in his hiding spot, Bruce listened to Imogene as she told him about the Princess’s fairy curse. Maybe, just maybe this girl could be his friend if she wasn’t afraid of anything.

A scream sounded from below.

Jude barked: hurry hurry!

Oh no! Bruce flew down from the top of the barn passing through walls, floors, hay, dust, nests, and droppings.

“Princess!?” he shouted.

Then he saw her feet dangling through the dangerous second floor. Dirt covered her perfect glass slippers and a cut bled on her knee. The boards had given way under her as she tried to reach the ladder. Worse yet, her scream had woken Joshua the Dragon who slept under the barn. He loved Princesses most of all for dinner and he was very hungry when her yells woke him from his long autumn nap.

Bruce charged through the floor and stopped in front of the Princess.

“Hush! Hush.” Bruce pressed his finger to his lips. “You’ve woken Joshua up.”

“Who’s Joshua?” The Princess asked between gasps as she tried to keep from falling through the hole.

“He’s the dragon that lives under the barn.” Bruce tried to grab her hand but he kept floating right through her.

“What’s a dragon doing here?”

“Waiting to eat people.”

“Oh dear.” The Princess wasn’t afraid of Joshua the Dragon, she was far more worried about trying to explain to her parents how she ripped her dress and then got eaten. They wouldn’t be happy with her. “You have to find a way to help me up.”

Bruce zipped around and around thinking who could help. Think. Zip. Think. Zip.

The Princess slid further down into the whole.

Joshua the Dragon growled and climbed towards her.

Jude barked and barked chasing after the zipping, thinking ghost only to run back and bark at the dragon, and then tug on the Princess’s sleeve.

“I’ve got it!” Bruce flew like the wind out of the barn.

Faster and faster he floated. Bruce passed through trees, houses, and even a cow until he came to the creek where the water nymph, Constance, lived.

“Constance!” he called. “Help! Help!”

Out of the creek, rose a silvery girl with long locks of hair that flowed behind her when she swam. In her arms, a little nymph boy with big eyes sucked on the empty shell of a snail.

“What is it Bruce?”

“The Unafraid Princess fell through the floor and woke Joshua up and now he’s going to eat her!”

“That silly dragon always forgets he swore to stop eating princesses years ago.” Constance set the little nymph boy down. “Stay here Rook, until I get back. And no teasing the fish!”

Together, Bruce and Constance hurried back to the barn, passing back through trees and houses, though Constance made him go around the cow, instead of through it, much to the joy of the cow. Back in the barn, Constance, with the help of Jude, pulled the Princess up through the hole and onto boards that were safer.

“Just because you aren’t afraid,” Constance said. “Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make wise decisions. Didn’t Ellie the Fairy explain that?”


As Constance said her name, Ellie appeared.

“You called?” she said.

Joshua roared. The whole barn shook.

“My goodness. What is that?” Ellie peered down into the whole.

“That is Joshua the Dragon, which your Princess woke up because she’s not afraid of anything.”

“Well, not exactly—” the Princess started to explain, but Ellie loudly interrupted.

“Why would you go and do something like that?”

“I didn’t mean to wake him up.”

Joshua spread his wings and flew up into the room breaking the dangerous second floor to bits. Ellie fluttered out of the barn with the Princess who was still not scared. Constance grabbed up Jude and hurried out of the dragon’s way with Bruce behind them. Interrupted from her afternoon sleep by all the racket, Imogene came to see what had happened.

“I smell a tasty Princess!” Joshua snapped lashing his tail. “And I’m HUNGRY!”

Everyone stared at the big green dragon.

“No.” Bruce said. “No. You can’t eat her.”

“Why not?” Joshua growled. Smoke drifted up out of his large nose.

“Cause she’s my friend. And her dog is my friend.”

“Isn’t Imogene the Owl your friend, and Constance the water nymph, and Ellie the Fairy?”

Bruce looked around at not just the Princess and Jude, but also at the others gathered to help him.

“Don’t forget me!” a small voice said. “I’m your friend too.” Out of the barn fluttered a small moth with wild hair.

“Hello Remi,” Joshua said. He blew a soft puff of air at her to help her over to Bruce.

“Thank you, Joshua,” she huffed quite out of breath.

“All of you are my friends?” Bruce said.

“Of course!” Ellie shouted.

“But I’ve felt so lonely.”

“Maybe it took the unafraid Princess to remind you that you have lots of friends,” Constance said.

“Are you really going to eat me?” The Princess reminded them of why they were all here.

Joshua opened his big great mouth. Rows and rows of teeth gleamed in the sunshine. Smoke billowed up out of his throat.

“No.” He clamped his mouth shut. “No. I just remembered I promised not to eat any more Princesses.”

The unafraid Princess ran over and gave him a great big hug.

“I knew there was nothing to be scared of.”

Jude barked.

“He thinks that since we’re all here, we may as well play a game of hide-and-go-seek.” Bruce translated.

“We should!” Ellie yelled.

The dragon, nymph, fairy, princess, moth, owl, and puppy darted back into the old barn while Bruce closed his eyes and started to count.

The End


A Texas Cousins Adventure: Here there be Dragons

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

“Abby!” Ellie yelled running up on her plump baby legs all smiles. Aunt Abby scooped her up and spun her in the air. Several more voices chorused her name and Aunt Abby soon found herself surrounded by little people, most with blonde hair, but one with red, and one with dark brown. She hugged and kissed the many faces before sending them in to greet their grandparents and Great-Gran.

Several moms hurried off before their absence was notice. Boxes of raisins where handout, toys dragged into the living room, and a whirlwind of chaos created by the seven cousins.

“Tell us a story,” Jules said later in the day as they lay outside in the sun.

“Yes, a once upon a time story,” Bruce said. “About us.”

“With dragons,” Jules added.

Several oooohs and aaaahs followed Jules’ suggestion.

“Do you know what a dragon says?” Bruce asked.

“Do you?” Aunt Abby said.

“I am FIRE!” Bruce growled. “And they kinda look like lions.”

Aunt Abby smiled. “That is what they say Bruce. Okay, a story about dragons . . .”

Once upon a time, seven cousins had a slumber party –

“At my house?” Jules asked. “Cause I’m Party Girl?”

“I’m Party Girl, too,” Bruce said.

“Party Boy, ” Aunt Abby corrected. “Yes, it was at your house Jules.”

“Was I there?” Constance asked linking her arm through Jules’.

“Yes. You were there and so was Joshua, Imogene, Jude, and Ellie. Now back to the story.”

Once upon a time, seven cousins had a slumber party at Party Girl’s house. They played hide-and-go-seek, freeze tag, ate lots of yummy cookies, and then watched a movie. Finally, they were all put to bed. Joshua, Bruce, and Jude unrolled their sleeping bags covered in cars, trucks, and planes. Constance climbed in bed with Jules after emptying flowers, sticks, and rocks from her pockets. The two girls instantly started to whisper as only two little girls can. Ellie and Imogene shared Ellie’s bed and soon started a stuffed animal war with the boys.

After settling down again when several adults growled at them, the cousins slowly fell asleep.

“Not me!” said Joshua.

“Yes, Josh, even you fell asleep.”

“And me?” Ellie asked.

“Yep, each and every one of you fell asleep.”

The moon rose high in the sky and all the stars winked and twinkled around it. Suddenly! A door opened in Jules’ bedroom. Everyone woke up with a start. The door wasn’t where the door should be. It was on the other wall. Bruce, Joshua, and Jude leapt up. Ellie brandished a plastic sword and Constance a stick. Bruce and Joshua tugged toy guns out of the bottom of their sleeping bags and aimed them at the open door. Imogene pulled Jude up in their bed. They armed themselves with several stuffed animals.

“Wait!” Jules yelled holding out her arms.

A giant, black head with gold glowing eyes poked in the door. The seven cousins froze in fear.

“Good evening, children,” the head spoke. “I am Alchemist, a—”

“Dragon!” Bruce said.

“Yes, a dragon. I am a dragon.”

“Will you eat us?” Constance asked.

“Um, no. I’m not that kind of dragon.”

“What kind of dragon are you?” Jules asked.

“A sweet one?” asked Ellie?

“Are you pretty?” asked Imogene.

“He’s not pretty!” Bruce and Joshua said together. “He’s a dragon.”

“Well, I don’t know,” the dragon said with a glance down at himself. “I think I’m quiet fetching.”

“Mom says boys aren’t pretty,” Bruce said.

“We’re handsome,” said Joshua.

Jude nodded in agreement.

“I think he’s pretty,” said Jules.

“Enough of this,” the dragon said. “I need you children to come with me.”

“Why?” Bruce said.

“Because, my home is in danger, and you must save it.”

“Why?” Joshua said.

“Because only you seven can find the last dragon egg.”

“Why is it the last?” Jude asked.

“They have a bad case of the whys,” Imogene informed Alchemist.

“I see that,” Alchemist huffed. “Listen all of you. Seven cousins are required to find the last egg. It is just beyond our reach and we need you to help us. Will you come?”

“Yes!” said Constance jumping off the bed. Ellie quickly followed her.

“Then come through the door and climb on my back.”

The seven children hurried through the door, some on long legs, and some on short tottering legs, but all eager to see the dragon. They found themselves in a place filled with silver starlight and moonlight. It glinted on Alchemist’s black scales and large gray wings. The children gaped in wonder at the large dragon who bowed his head in appreciation of their awe.

“Do you breathe fire?” Bruce asked.

“Why do they always ask that?” Alchemist muttered to himself. Then more loudly, “Of course. All dragons breathe fire.”

“Can we see?” asked Imogene.

“No. You can climb on my back.”

The seven cousins, with Alchemist’s help, climbed up between the rows of scales on his back. With a flap of his great big wings, Alchemist took off. He flew high, high, high into the sky right towards the moon leaving the world far below them. Wind blew around the children whistling in their ears and teasing their hair. The cheered the dragon on as he flew. Jude waved his chubby arms. Imogene squealed and Constance laughed. Joshua and Bruce whooped and whooped while Jules clung to her scale not wanting to fall off. Ellie stood up and spread her arms wide as the dragon flew.

“And that’s where we’re going to stop today,” Aunt Abby said.

“What?” Jules said.

“No!” said Ellie.

“You’re going to stop there? But did we rescue the last egg?” Constance said.

“Why are you stopping there?” Bruce said.

Imogene’s lower lip came out in a perfect pout and Jude growled.

“Aunt Abby,” Joshua said, “finish the story.”

“I will, but this is part one. It’s a very long story. When you have a very long story sometimes you have to give the storyteller a break.”

“Why?” Bruce said.

“Cause storytelling is thirsty business.”

“If we get you a drink, will you finish the story?” Jules asked.

“Yes,” Aunt Abby said.

Seven cousins bounded to their feet racing to reach the back porch. They scrambled to find Grammie and a glass of water. Aunt Abby smiled to herself and tried desperately to figure out what happened next in the story.

…to be continued…


(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

Texas Cousin Adventure: A Second Cousin

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

The sun warmed Aunt Abby as she lay on a patchwork quilt surrounded by seven squirming nieces and nephews.

“Look at that cloud,” Aunt Abby pointed up at a big fluffy cloud. “It looks like a dragon.”

Jules squinted up at the cloud. “No, it looks like a birthday cake with candles, flowers, and butterflies.”

“I see a plane like Dusty,” Joshua said with a small, serious frown.

“Dusty?” Bruce said. “I see a motorcycle!”

Constance glanced up from the flowers she gathered for Grammie. “They look like sky-mountains to me.”

“Look, a baby flower,” Ellie said holding up a tiny yellow bud.

Imogene didn’t worry about dragons, cakes, planes, motorcycles, or sky-mountains. She blinked her bright blue eyes at Jude and showed him how to blow spit bubbles. He almost did it on the first try causing her to squeal with delight.

“So, I hear you’re having a new cousin,” Aunt Abby said.

“A new cousin?” Constance said.

“Who has a baby in their belly?” Jules asked. “Did you get married?”

Aunt Abby chuckled. “Jules, I’ve been married longer than your Mommy and Daddy have been married. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you have a baby in your tummy…but you should not have a baby in your tummy unless you’re married. Understand?”

“Nope,” Ellie said showering Aunt Abby with baby flowers. Aunt Abby sat up spilling the flowers down on Auntie Janet’s quilt.

“Who’s having a baby?” Bruce asked ripping up a handful of grass and throwing it at Ellie. “Is my Mommy? I just got a new brother.”

“Nope, it’s not your Mommy,” Aunt Abby said dusting Ellie off.

“Mine?” said Jules and Ellie.


Ellie dashed off to gather more flowers to throw at Bruce.

“Mine?” said Constance and Joshua.


Jude and Imogene blew spit bubbles to great effect.

“What about Aunt Liz?” Jules asked.

“Nope, not yet.” Aunt Abby said with a sparkle in her eye.

“Then who?” All the cousins squealed together except Jude and Imogene who were far to engaged in bubbles formed from excessive saliva to be bothered about extra cousins. Ellie tossed a handful of weeds, flowers, and dirt on Bruce. He growled and chased her around Aunt Abby.

“Your cousins James and Michelle.”

“They’re our cousins?” Jules said screwing up her face as she tried to understand.

“Well, technically, they’re your parents’ cousins and my cousins. But, they’re having a baby and their baby will be your second cousin.”

“Will it be a boy?” Joshua asked before Jules could ask what a second cousin was.

“Why?” Aunt Abby asked tickling him with one hand and catching Bruce with the other. “Are you feeling a bit outnumbered?”

Joshua rolled away giggling. Bruce growled louder.  Aunt Abby growled back.

“Will it be a boy?” Jules asked.

“Yep. They’re having a boy.”

Aunt Abby let go of Bruce. “Hear that?”

Seven little boys and girls sat up or turned around, even bubble blowing stopped.

“What?” hissed Constance.

“Hear the rocks crunching on the driveway?” Aunt Abby whispered dramatically.

The kids stood on their tiptoes and cupped their hands around their ears.

“Someone’s here,” Joshua said.

“It’s cousin Michelle!” Jules said.

“Yes it is,” Aunt Abby climbed to her feet and scooped up Jude covering him in ticklish kisses. “Y’all should all run and give her a hug around her big tummy and welcome Rook into the family.”


All the cousins, Abby’s nieces and nephews, scrambled off to welcome Rook Patrick into the growing family.

The End1458594_10100202326410074_877997311_n10255108_10154002186950442_3524871901037550042_n

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)