Bobby Pendragon: From Zero to Hero by Andrew, Lindsey and Nakia

MacHale, DJ. Pendragon: The Merchant of Death. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002.

The Merchant of Death (Pendragon)
The Merchant of Death (Pendragon)

“I thought my life was over. All that was left was to wait for the pain. Would it come fast and hit me hard? Or would it start at my feet and gradually work its way up my legs, over my body, and zero in right on my head in a brilliant, searing flash of agony before everything went dark?” (p42) writes Bobby Pendragon to his best friend Mark. To Bobby, he thought his life was over, when really it was just beginning. Bobby is just a regular middle-school student when his life changes forever, when he’s spit across time and space in order to change the world of Denduron.

The book begins with Bobby heading to his teams semifinal basketball game. However, he is stopped first by Courtney Chetwynde, the prettiest girl in school. They share a awkward but fairly intimate moment until Bobby's Uncle Press barges in and demands that Bobby come with him. The next thing Bobby knows he is thrown into a parallel universe fighting for his life. He comes face to face with such things as, flumes and quigs, as well as learning the true meanings of courage and sacrifice.

Bobby is told to keep a journal of his experiences by Osa, a woman who guides him through all the changes after his Uncle is taken captive. He sends these journals back home to what they call "Second Earth" to his friend Mark. Throughout the process of the book Mark and Courtney follow along with the adventures and dangers Bobby experiences while trying to help him the best they can. However, Mark and Courtney have to deal with problems of their own back on "Second Earth" when they find out that Bobby isn't the only one who has disappeared.

D.J. MacHale's Pendragon: The Merchant of Death is a good example of a "coming of age" book. He addresses the issues of friendship, loyalty, maturity, and sacrifice for the greater good among others. At one point Bobby looks at his friends, after they have risked their lives for him, and "what he saw were two people who came through for him in a big way when they really didn't have to" (176). The tight bond they share is shown to be stronger than the obstacles they face. Bobby's friends aren't the only ones who prove their loyalty throughout the book. Bobby, though hesitant at first, shows his loyalty to his Uncle Press when he decides that he must rescue him. Bobby believes that "it was a sad testament that my last memory of him was going to be the sight of him dragged off by Kagan's knights" (157). He decides that because his Uncle has always been there for him it is his responsibility to put aside his fear and do the mature and courageous thing. A true sacrifice is shown through Osa when she does something that ultimately saves Bobby's life. All of these issues are something that teenagers will have to deal with at some point in their lives, and though they may be faced with different experiences and situations the messages in this book can help them to understand and cope their own struggles.

Though MacHale's book delievers many messages to adolescents it does it in a way that captures the minds of the readers and keeps their interest. It has many fantasy aspects to it that are in some ways similar to such books as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. However, these books are a bit shorter in length than Harry Potter and aimed towards a younger audience than The Lord of the Rings. MacHale also draws his readers in by leaving them wanting more. He ends his first book with a "to be continued" leaving the readers to imagine all of the possibilities from the books to come.

Bobby Pendragon is a character that is very easy to identify with, he's thrown into a situation that he didn't know was coming, which is something everyone in their life will have to deal with at one point or another. He is also selfish and self-centered at the beginning of the book. But this zero attitude doesn't last long as Bobby's reality hits and he decides he needs to put his own wants aside and he becomes a hero. Bobby learns "that sometimes it's okay to think like a weenie, so long as you don't act like one" (pg359).

MacHale gives the readers a story where a young boy goes from being nothing more than an average student and star basketball player to being a boy who has to help save not just the world, but the universe. The readers are shown the doubt and fear Bobby experiences throughout the book and his inevitable decision to do the right thing. This transition shows adolscent readers that it is alright to be scared, but that doing the right thing is a part of growing up.

Recommendations for Teachers
Pendragon: The Merchant of Death could be put to good use in a classroom for a few reasons. Due to the fact that this book is the first in its series, teachers could encourage their students to continue with their reading outside of class by reeling them in with this book and then giving them information on the other books. Another reason why this book would be beneficial in a classroom is that it teaches the students the importance of friendship and trust. Bobby Pendragon says it himself, "a friend is someone who gives you trust because they want to, not because they have to" (117). Adolescence is a crucial time to form bonds and friendships because it helps make the change from childhood to adulthood easier. The friendships in this book are solid examples of the friendships that any teenager would want to have. There is also the "coming of age" message throughout the book. Bobby Pendragon gets thrown into a life changing adventure and though he doesn't want to take on the responsibility he has been given, he eventually is persuaded by Loor who says, "I do not understand how you can only think of yourself when your uncle is about to die" (156). Though he doesn't believe he is capable of being a hero, he puts his childish fears aside to do the right thing. Students could benefit from this book if by relating it to their own lives and situations, especially when it comes to maturity and the bonds of friendship. The only downfall to this book may be that it is a lenthy read. It's hard to captivate students and keep their attention, so it may be beneficial to read part of it in class instead of leaving all the reading up to the students.
*Note - When teaching this book, teachers should first inform parents that there is some mild cursing and violence.

DJ MacHale: A Jack of All Trades

D.J. MacHale born on March 11th, 1956 in Greenwich, Connecticut. After he graduated from Greenwich High School he attended New York University where he received his BFA in film production.

external image DJPic.jpgDJ MacHale is not only the author of the books included in The Pendragon Adventure, but has also written a few other pieces, as well as writing and producing various television programs and films. Starting by producing commercials, DJ decided that he wanted more from the media industry and turned to creating television programs for children. He not only wrote and produced every episode of Nickelodian's popular television series of the 1990s, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, but he also wrote and produced the pilot episode of Ghostwriter, Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective, and Tower of Terror, a film based on the Disney theme park thrill ride of the same name. Recently, DJ has written and directed a television series called Flight 29 Down. DJ has won several awards and nominations for his work, including the Gemini Award and a nomination for the Writers Guild of America. In addition to authoring The Pendragon Adventure, DJ has co-written The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors and has also modernized a popular Norwegian legend. DJ plans to write a total of ten books for the Pendragon series and has not announced any future projects. To learn more about DJ MacHale and things he's been involved in, visit this page.


Because of the relatively small size of the following of the Pendragon series, not much in the way of media or audio has been released about the book or series except a few fan-created videos.

Podcast created by Andrew Kiste, Nakia Bole, and Lindsey Waggoner.

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