Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Last Dragon Chronicles” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Liz Pennykettle’s house in Scrubbley, Massachusetts, is just the right place for David Rain, a college student, to rent. It’s a pleasant and cozy home, and Liz and her 11-year-old daughter, Lucy, are charmingly eccentric. Liz is a potter, so the whole house is full of clay figurines of dragons, which are strangely lifelike.

Liz’s dragon is called Guinevere, and Lucy’s dragon is Gwendolen. A few days after he arrives, Liz gives David his own clay dragon, which David names Gadzooks. Gadzooks is holding a clay pencil and pad, and Liz says he can help David with writing inspiration.

Lucy Pennykettle is obsessed with squirrels and insists that David like squirrels, too. A few months ago, her neighbor’s oak tree was cut down and the neighborhood squirrels ran away, devastating Lucy. The only squirrel she has seen recently is Conker, who went blind in one eye and couldn’t escape the neighborhood due to his disability. Lucy asks David to write a story about squirrels and says Gadzooks will help him compose it.

When David goes to the library to check out a book about squirrels, he meets Liz’s next-door neighbor, Mr. Bacon, a grumpy man who seems to hate small animals. David is worried when he discovers that Mr. Bacon is making a rodent trap to catch Lucy’s favorite squirrel. David and Lucy build their own trap to catch Conker humanely, so they can transport him to the local library’s gardens, which also contain oak trees.

David puts the Pennykettles’ cat Bonnington inside Mr. Bacon’s squirrel trap so Liz will find her cat stuck inside it, be outraged and demand that Mr. Bacon destroy his trap. Everything works according to plan, but while David is gratified that Conker is no longer in danger from Mr. Bacon, he doesn't know how to catch Conker by himself. Instead, he catches Snigger, a smiling squirrel who lives in the library gardens.

David begins writing an adventure story that he intends to give to Lucy on her birthday. He discovers that when he mentally focuses on his clay dragon Gadzooks, the dragon sends him ideas for a story about Snigger, Conker and their other squirrel friends.

David overhears Liz telling Lucy the story of Gawain, the last real dragon, and he himself begins dreaming about dragons until he’s not sure whether they are real or not. His fictional story, Snigger and the Nutbeast, begins to overlap with reality as well. When he writes that a crow is chasing Snigger on the lawn, it actually happens in real time.

Sophie Prentice, a volunteer, arrives to collect donations for the local wildlife shelter. When David and the Pennykettles finally find Conker, Sophie tends to the animal's injuries at the shelter. She becomes friends with the Pennykettles and tells them that Conker has a severe health problem, which means he won’t live very long. Lucy is distraught over Conker’s diagnosis but is excited about taking him to the local library’s gardens, where all his squirrel friends live. After Liz, Lucy, Sophie and David deliver Conker to his new home in the gardens, Liz helps Sophie select her very own dragon, which she names Grace, and Sophie and David become a couple.

David struggles to come up with an appropriate ending for Snigger and the Nutbeast, now that both Snigger and Conker are happily settled in the library gardens. Lucy demands an exciting conclusion to the story, and David doesn’t like the sad ending that Gadzooks suggests. When Liz, Lucy, Sophie and David all go back to the library gardens to look for Conker, David finds that he has already died, as Gadzooks said he would. They bury Conker beneath the big oak tree in the garden.

David feels confused and angry because he doesn’t understand all the dragon-related things happening at the Pennykettles’ house, so he mentally tells Gadzooks that he doesn’t care about him. This saddens Gadzooks.

Liz tells David that dragons cry internal tears which put out their fire and that they can go into deep slumber if their fire is not rekindled. She says David can rekindle Gadzooks’ flame by loving him. Liz tells David a long story about how humans and dragons first became connected — a human girl named Guinevere caught the final tear of the last dragon, called a fire tear, and protected the fire for the rest of her life.

After the story, David no longer sees the dragons as figurines, but as small living creatures who fly around the house. He apologizes to Gadzooks, who is in a deep sleep because he’s heartbroken. David catches Gadzooks’ fire tear as it falls, and an ancient witch named Gwilanna suddenly appears to give David advice. She says he must cry also, so David cries a single tear, which mixes with Gadzooks’ tear and forms a magical flame. He brings the flame to Gadzooks’ nose, and Gadzooks inhales the flame and comes back to life.

David tells Sophie that the Pennykettles’ dragon figures are real and that they come alive. He says that Liz and Lucy are descendants of Guinevere, the girl who caught the fire tear of the last dragon. Sophie doesn’t believe him, but she appreciates his creativity and thinks he should be a novelist.

David and Sophie join Liz and Lucy in planting a tree in honor of Conker. After the tree-planting, David reads everyone the revised final pages of Snigger and the Nutbeast, describing Conker’s peaceful final days and giving everyone closure over his loss.

Christian Beliefs

Liz Pennykettle says Lucy talks about squirrels so often, she’s tired of hearing about them and wishes Noah hadn’t allowed squirrels to board the ark.

David prays for Conker the squirrel to survive after an injury.

Other Belief Systems

The dragon figurines come to life, due to an ancient magic connecting them with real dragons who once roamed the earth.

A witch-like character named Gwilanna offers advice about how humans should help their distressed dragons.

Authority Roles

Liz Pennykettle and her daughter Lucy have small arguments, but they clearly love each other and respect each other’s wishes. Liz sets rules and boundaries for Lucy and also provides her with lots of joyful experiences, such as birthday parties.

David is kind to Lucy and always thoughtful of her feelings.





Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 13


Chris d'Lacey






Record Label



Orchard Books, a division of Hachette


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.