Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Today's read... Long Goes to Dragon School by Helen H. Wu

I've read and enjoyed works from today's author before. So, when I was offered to take a peek at her upcoming release, I was more than willing...I was excited. First off, this one is about dragons, and everyone knows that dragons are cool. Add the wonderful Eastern culture, which the author always weaves in with finesse, and I couldn't wait to take a look.

by Helen H. Wu
Illustrated by Mae Besom
Yeehoo Press
Picture Book
36 pages
ages 4 to 8


Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, self-acceptance, and cultural differences.
It's the first day of Dragon School, where all the young dragons must learn how to harness their fire breath. Today's lesson? Using it to cook food! All the dragons are excited to test their powers . . . except Long.
Long is from the East and can only breathe out water. No matter how hard he huffs and puffs, he isn't sure he can match his fire breathing classmates. But will he be discovered? Or will Long find his own unique path to cooking-and to fitting in?
From TOFU TAKES TIME author Helen H. Wu and New York Times bestselling illustrator Mae Besom (WHAT DO YOU DO WITH AN IDEA?) comes a gorgeously illustrated and stirring tale around self-acceptance. Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale is a celebration of cultural differences.

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Dragons from both the East and the West come together in a swirl of colors and discover their very own talents in a delightful way.

It's Long's first day at dragon school, and all of his classmates come from the West where as he is from the East. Not that this makes any difference, since they are all dragons and have fun together...or at least, until Long realizes that dragons from the West breathe fire and not water like him. This becomes a huge problem when it's time to practice using the fire for cooking class. Long is going to do his best, but he has no idea how to keep this from ending up badly.

I'm going to start with the illustrations, since these are beautifully done and have their very own style and touch. Made with aquarelles, the scenes take on a hint of fantasy and dreams while still keeping details clear enough to recognize. It's a whirl of colors, which sinks each scene into a fitting atmosphere. I was especially surprised how well the style made each dragon, especially the teacher, border on at hints of dangerous and awe, while still making them inviting and fun to join. 

The tale is easy to follow and flows well. The intended age group will recognize the classroom setting and sympathize with the situation, while being caught up in the entire wonderfulness of dragons. Long is fun to root for as he tries his best, and it isn't clear how everything will turn out. The end twist is clever and pulls off the message of valuing differences and talents without every steering even sightly close to becoming preachy. It's simply fun to cheer for Long when he solves his problem and join in the happiness with the rest of the class.

Book Highlights...just because I found these interesting and thought you might, too

• NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING ILLUSTRATOR, MAE BESOM: Award-winning illustrator Mae Besom uses traditional media to deliver striking illustrations that will captivate readers and leave them poring over every detail. A simultaneously fresh but classic imagining of Eastern and Western dragons.

• INSPIRED BY THE AUTHOR’S OWN EXPERIENCE: Helen H. Wu is a first-generation immigrant born and raised in China, who later moved to study and work in the US. The cultural similarities and differences helped inspire this story of two dragon worlds coming together within this school.

• LEARN MORE ABOUT CHINESE DRAGON LORE: With a rapidly increasing pop culture references to Asian dragon mythology, this picture book will help meet the growing demands of this interest and help explain the differences between Western and Eastern representation of dragons.

• A TALE OF PERSEVERANCE: There are great social emotional learning components here, especially centered around perseverance, self-acceptance, growth mindset, and goal setting. While Long doesn’t fit in with the rest of the dragons, he persists with a growth mindset and accomplishes his goals—all while staying true to his unique talents.

• COOK ALONG WITH THE DRAGONS: Kids will get to see bits of the cooking process, as dragons toast marshmallows, roast popcorn, grill fish, and much more. A fun way to learn more about cooking!

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