Reviews /

Luna and the Sky Dragon

Authored by Bethan Woollvin
Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
Published by Pan Macmillan

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Science, storytelling and dragons – all the best things! – collide in this story about a girl, whose understanding of the universe conflicts with the beliefs and traditions of her time.

Luna spends her nights studying the stars through her telescope. She is frustrated by her neighbours, who explain away worrying mysteries with tales of a fearsome Sky Dragon. Luna’s studies have shown her that the dragon ‘just a strip of bright stars that are part of our galaxy’ and that what they fear is the dragon’s fiery breath is ‘a wandering star’ – a comet. How can she convince them? She invites the scared people into her observatory and soothes their fears by sharing her ideas and she listens to their stories.

The author explains that she was inspired to write this story by women scientists through history, such as Ancient Greek astronomer Aglaonice, whose ideas were dismissed as witchcraft. This story is a great way to introduce how myths and legends served to explain the unknown and how early scientific ideas, which challenged them, were viewed with suspicion. Luna is a strong character, who perseveres in her beliefs and remains true to her passions. Despite the townspeople’s protestations and Luna’s irritation, the tone at the end is one of warmth and reconciliation, as room is made for everyone’s ideas and beliefs.

The limited colour palette and simple shapes of the stylised illustrations effectively depict an ancient world where civilisation and magic co-exist. As in Woollvin’s version of Little Red Riding Hood, ‘Little Red’, the characters’ huge eyes are a big feature and are used to great effect when the townspeople cower in the shadow of a lunar eclipse. The wonderful endpapers – Luna’s workbook? – fill us in on some of the science and myths referred to in the story.

This book will be enjoyed by children from four to seven and would be a good class read aloud in Year 1 and Year 2 classes. It could also be used as a springboard for learning about the role of storytelling and astronomy and as a way of finding out about some more diverse figures in Ancient Greece.

Although Luna’s scientific ideas dismiss the tale of Draco the Sky Dragon, the dragon is a friendly presence, watching over Luna throughout the book and begging the question: is the Sky Dragon real after all?

Longlisted for the Spark Book Awards 2024 Picture Fiction for Early Readers Category