Reviews /

Strong

Authored by Clara Anganuzzi
Illustrated by Clara Anganuzzi
Published by Little Tiger

Tagged , , , , , ,

‘Small, gentle and quiet,’ flower-loving Maurice the dragon is not your average dragon; he is overshadowed by his brother Gruff, and a big competition – Maurice’s first – is coming up. The tough, sinewy older dragons snarl and growl, and ‘parade their magnificent horns,’ but are blunt in their criticism of little Maurice.

How Maurice manages, and what his brother thinks of him are the heart of the story; this is therefore a tale about siblings, acceptance and respect, but at its heart it is also about masculinity, and perhaps about sexuality, although this is not explicit – and would have made this a rather different book. Clara Anganuzzi has a good eye for design and for colour and manages expressive faces on her energetic subjects very well: whooshing, zooming dragons breathing fire or picking flowers are a perfect subject for her. The text has good pace, simple but not patronising, and is placed in varying ways on the page to add to the sense of movement, which builds with every dragon swoop and comes to a halt at one point as Maurice lies forlorn and thinks ‘I will never be like other dragons.’ If read with enough energy by an adult, a young child sharing the book will be carried along through the ‘blazing bursts of flames’ and the peril that ensues when Gruff overreaches himself, to the exultant, liberating flight on the final double-page spread.

This is a book for younger children, and it might be better thought of as a book to be shared when a class is considering stories about social development as much as when they are playing at dragons. Maurice sits with Jen Campbell’s Franklin, and with Tomie de Paola’s Knight and the Dragon as a challenging figure that shows there is more than one way to be a dragon.