The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin.
This very popular author of fantasies for adults has written a story for children. It is the story of Adara, a child born in the depth of one of the coldest winters ever. The same winter that killed her mother. Now at age seven she lives with her father, brother and sister as the springs continue to shorten due to the ferocious winters. Adara is a cold child both in personality and in temperature. She can hold the ice lizards because her bodyheat is so low and she can play out in the snow without much protection. Each winter, Adara longs for her birthday to come so that she can see the ice dragon flying. As she grew older, Adara grew more comfortable with the dragon and now flies on his back into the sky.
But war is coming to Adara’s farm, and she will be tested along with the rest of her family. When her father refuses to leave the farm until it is too late Adara must face her greatest fear and have her icy coldness truly tested.
The book is exactly the right level for third and fourth graders. It has illustrations on some of the pages, fairly large text size, and nice short chapters. Even better, it is a serious fantasy novel that will invite young readers into a world of danger and dragons. There are some issues with tone at times, where there is a sense that the author is addressing child readers rather than writing for them. But those areas are brief and do not interfere with the storyline. Adara is a wonderful heroine who despite her chilly demeanor will have young readers enjoying her adventures.
Recommended for children moving from readers to full chapter books, especially those who enjoy dragons, fantasy and fairy tales.