Saturday, January 26, 2019

Dragons in Love

Dragons in Love is a cute illustrated story for young readers. The illustrations by Ronan Badel are sweet and whimsical.

Released 15th Jan 2019 from Quarto on their words & pictures imprint, it's 32 pages and available in hardcover (board) format.  It was originally published in 2014 in French and translated into the English by Vanessa Miéville.  The text has been translated very well although it does have nuances of cadence in language from the French (which I found charming).

I have to admit, I found the art wonderful.  In fact, I spent a little while online trying to find the artist's other work in order to possibly obtain prints or other graphics from M. Badel.  

So, the art is superlative and detailed enough to provide amusement to both young readers and their adults.

There are some lovely aspects to the story itself. The dragons in the story appear to be a solo dad and son family unit. Dad is willing and able to talk about feelings and life experiences with Drake, his son, and it never comes across as preachy or strident.  I like their relationship.  I like that he notices Drake's discomfort with the unexpected kiss and does his best to explain what's going on and help.

That being said there are some issues.  The story revolves around the fact that drake gets kissed on the snout unexpectedly by his friend Violet. This confuses him and makes him sad (he avoids her and even avoids going places she likes to go), he doesn't want to eat, etc. His dad notices and tries to help by saying that breathing fire is just what dragons do when they fall in love.  I think this is even more confusing to little kids (I might be overthinking things). The situation comes to a crisis when Drake sees Violet being bullied and flambés the mean kid.  So is it ok for people to intervene with violence in a good cause? Dragons breathe fire when they're stressed...or mad.... or in love? Or... I'm not quite sure what the author is aiming for here (probably an audience of kids who take the story for what it is and don't try to interpret it). 

At the end of the day, it's a kids' story and we adults might be over-analyzing everything... but there are so many really valuable genuinely moving children's books that I can't recommend this one unreservedly.  I might have bought it for my own kids when they were small, but I really wouldn't feel comfortable buying it for someone else's kids unless I -knew- that their caregivers wouldn't be offended by the issues.

The art is superlative; a clear 5 stars.  The story is iffy; 2,5-3 stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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