“My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”
Good grief, there really is no shortage of mean ol’ dragons in literature – as anyone who’s ever read The Hobbit, Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones for us TV addicts) will tell you. Not just your run of the mill winged, fire breathing beasts either; they’re often cunning, almost always maleficent and generally the stuff of nightmares. And picture books don’t cast this mythical monster in much better light. Chris Wormell’s dragon in George and the Dragon, is truly frightful – terrorising whole armies, destroying castles and kidnapping princesses. And who could forget Julia Donaldson’s dragon who’s ready to chow down on “witch and chips” for his tea. So is it any wonder, that in Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright’s There is NO Dragon in This Story, that poor dragon has staged a walk out?
Yep, that’s right… Dragon has up and left his story in a desperate attempt to change his own narrative. I like it! And publishing pundits seem to agree as it’s just been nominated for the Kate Greenaway medal, one of the oldest and most lauded UK children’s book awards. Dragon’s fed up with playing the baddie and has trudged off in search of a storyline fit for a hero. In doing so, he gate-crashes a bevy of classic yarns… encountering a “biscuit man”, little pigs, red riding hood and plenty more characters to boot. But they’re all annoyingly unanimous in their cries…
“There is NO dragon in this story.”
NOW who’s mean? Boo hiss.
Our well-meaning dragon isn’t giving up, and when he spots Jack clambering up the beanstalk, he jumps in to try save the day. But… it all goes terribly wrong. With the story in disarray, the characters really do need a hero. And it’s up to brave dragon to finally step up and do what only a dragon can do.
There is NO Dragon In This Story is Lou Carter’s debut book and she brings to it a playfully irreverent style – not unlike the narrator at a pantomime. But for all the jocularity, the underlying notes about inclusivity are important and skilfully handled. Deborah has more than 40 picture books under her belt and has obviously laboured over every detail in this story. Her illustrations are incredibly rich and beautifully fun to explore. And frankly, she’s created one of the best covers we’ve seen for a long while.
(And I certainly didn’t imagine dragon with the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. Nope. Definitely not.)