The Trouble with Dragons by Debi Gliori

I read this to my son (he didn’t like it).  The story has such a dark but true undertone – my son is too young to understand that the story is about the end of the planet as we know it.

The dragons represent humans, the story begins by saying “Dragons make dragons and they make some more till there are wall to wall dragons making dragons galore”, it goes on to say “soon their houses and roads take up all of the space”… “dragons chop down the forests which melts both the Poles and puncture the atmosphere full of big holes (think we all know what this means). It gets quite dark when it says “say goodbye to the world into which you were born.  Soon everyone else will have packed up and gone”.  The illustrations  on this page are also quite grim with an owl sitting on a melting iceberg, a polar bear holding Santa’s hat and Santa up to his knees in the water saving a mouse while the Christmas presents are lying on the ground getting wet.

Towards the end of the story the dragons are left on their own and it goes on to say “imagine a world with no birds and no bees, just dragons as far as a dragon can see.  Don’t go wailed the dragons.  Don’t leave us alone.  A world without wildlife is no kind of home”.  Isn’t this so true – if you’re unaware of the plight of the bees at the moment, they are becoming endangered due to some of the fancy plants people are planting these days which don’t have as much pollen or are difficult for the bees to get to the pollen, and because there are fewer and and fewer green spaces there’s fewer bees, and other wildlife too.

The dragons start to beg “if you stay, we promise to do what it takes to look after the planet for all of our sakes”. The animals return telling the dragons  to “eat food that is grown much closer to home” (this is in reference to reducing our carbon footprint and encouraging people to either grow their own or buy local), “and leave the wild places and ice caps alone”. “Respect all Earth’s creatures and cherish the land, recycle, reuse and reduce your demands”

This story is dark, there’s no denying that and as a book for a young child it’s maybe not suitable however I think it would be a fantastic way to introduce children to the important messages it portrays about looking after this planet and all of it’s wildlife – I imagine it would make a good start to a discussion or debate in school classrooms for children who are maybe a little older than my son.

In conclusion my son didn’t like it, but I really enjoyed it – yes it’s dark and yes the illustrations may look grim in some pages but the story and the illustrations help to bring the important message of this book to life.

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