Dragons, Tree Houses, and Woods REVIEWING Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years

Welcome back to The Real World According to Sam, on MAGIC MONDAY!!! Today we are talking about a movie tie-in novel. Pete's Dragon was remade by the Walt Disney Company back in 2016. I enjoyed the original Pete's Dragon, and I also enjoyed the new adaptation when it came out. For the longest while I wanted to read the novel that Disney Press released, which we are focusing on today. Let's jump in. 

Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years

Author: Elizabeth Rudnick
Genre: Fantasy
Year: 2016

Pete's Dragon: The Lost Years


After an accident strands him in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, five-year-old Pete doesn't know what to do. He is scared and alone and completely out of his element. 

Luckily, there's Elliot. Elliot is someone else who is lonely and could use a friend. He also happens to be a giant furry flying dragon. And when he saves young Pete from a pack of wolves, the dragon and the boy start building a remarkable life together. 

Follow this pair on their never-before-seen adventures in a tale about loss, discovery, and, above all else, friendship. 


The Lost Years focuses on the story of Pete and Elliot becoming friends. Within the movie, we see what happened to Pete before he met Elliot, but mainly we get him after they are friends. This book fills in some gaps in the story. For one thing, it introduces Pete's parents more and why they are where they are when they have their tragic accident. Pete is orphaned as a result of the accident and is all alone, until Elliot comes along. At first they can't understand each other at all, and all Pete really has left is a picture book in his backpack. This book is called Elliot Gets Lost, and provides the name for Elliot, the dragon. He pulls this book out every now and again to tell the story to Elliot and that is actually a book that Disney also put out which I would like to read. Elliot Gets Lost is the story of a lost puppy, so Pete relates to it a lot, since he feels lost. 

Before I get into the big problem I had with this book, I really want to focus on the positive parts of it. First of all, the illustrations. The cover and illustrations inside were created by Nicholas Kole, and I find them to be adorable and amazing at conveying the tone of this story. I loved his illustrations. They convey the sense of wonder a kid would have at having a best friend who is a dragon, the fear of being lost, the changing of the seasons as time passes on. The illustrations, although there are only a few, were one of my favorite parts of this book. I honestly would have loved to see this entire book done in a comic form, using just the art style of Nicholas Kole all throughout. I also would have loved a few more illustrations, since they were just wonderful to look at. They're youthful with bright colors and expressive faces for both characters. Very wonderful work here. 

The story itself is also pretty good. It is straightforward and imaginative. I would really start to feel like I was looking at the world through the view of a child and a dragon. Every emotion makes sense, every adventure feels like it is something a kid would either love or hate to experience. This is also a book that features a tree house, which Pete builds for himself, and I can easily recall wanting a tree house as a kid. Getting to relive that sense of wonder was really fun. The story is told from two perspectives: Elliot and Pete. The chapters alternate, and provides a very good look into what both are thinking about the other and about their circumstances. The one thing in general that I don't like as far as the story goes, is just that it has to start off so sad, to get to all the happy moments. In order to meet Elliot and live with him, Pete has to lose his parents. I don't like that, and truth be told, I've never enjoyed stories where kids lose their parents, but that is a personal preference and I understand why it is needed in stories at times to move things along in certain ways. 

The book is divided into four different seasons, with a total of fourteen chapters and an epilogue. Each season brings about its own challenges. Every season is also opened with an illustration by Nicholas Kole. I thought the challenges were very well approached and dealt with. Pete and Elliot have to deal with the weather and weather changes, with differences in diet, with differences in personal biological adaptations, with communication issues, and other challenges. By the end, they become the best of friends, practically inseparable. It is easy to see the love they have for each other and to fall into that sense of wonder, feeling warmth inside because it is just a heartwarming friendship to observe. 

But I did mention that there were problems. So let's talk about those...and by those I mean, the grammatical issues that I did not expect to find. I understand that mistakes are made. Sometimes a typo gets past a writer and an editor. Absolutely, it happens, and normally I wouldn't really point something like this out. Let me tell you, it happens too often for me to NOT mention it. Considering this is a fully professionally published book, connected to a film that already provides with a starting point and an end point, you should be able to complete the middle section and have time to check your work. If you don't catch it, your editor and proofreading team certainly should. It wasn't just one misspelled word, or an omitted word. There were mismatched pronouns, repeated sentences, inconsistent sections,..the kinds of things that jar you out of your reading rhythm and take you out of the story. One example is at the beginning, in chapter 1. Pete and his parents stop in a little general store in Millhaven, where they stop during the trip they're on. At the store, they talk to the store owner, an older man full of stories about the area being dragon country. Initially, the book refers to him as "the man", then it suddenly switches up in one paragraph and uses his name, which is "Sully", but the paragraph right after that is dialogue, in which Pete's mother asks the man his name. So he provides his name after his name has already been used repeatedly, without any proper introduction. Clearly, this would be a very quick fix, if you just take out the initial "Sully" uses, replace them with the consistent "the man", or introduce him by name in the paragraph before. No biggie. This and other errors just happen too often to be slid past without mentioning it. When reading a children's book that is supposed to take you away and make you feel the wonder and beauty of adventure, nature, and friendship, you shouldn't be taken out of the story by poor writing or editing. To me, especially with the publisher and their track record of story telling and publishing, this is pretty unacceptable. 

While I did feel wonder and excitement about the friendship between Pete and Elliot, and while I did really enjoy the story itself, the lack of proper proofreading really just takes this book down a whole notch for me. As a story I want to give this book more than what I am...because in reality, we have to take execution of writing into consideration when rating books. I was super excited to read this, and left feeling much more disappointed than I thought I would. Therefore, this book earns itself a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯.

I liked this book, but I definitely didn't love it, and I doubt I would re-read it or revisit it for anything more than just looking at the pictures because of the clunky writing. If it was republished with all the writing errors fixed up, I'd consider revisiting it, but as it is...it is just too jarring for comfort compared to other children's books that are just as enjoyable, but written with extra care and attention to execution.

Thanks for tuning in to this installment from The Real World According to Sam, where I bring the books straight to your screen and even put in my own two cents on them.