Dandelion’s Dream

Authored by Yoko Tanaka
Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka
Published by Walker Books

This is a breathtakingly beautiful and deeply philosophical picturebook. The illustrations are superb. In the absence of a written text they carry the narrative completely, while leaving lots of tantalising gaps for young readers to fill.

If children know that the origin of the word ‘Dandelion’ is to do with dandelion leaves resembling lion’s teeth, then perhaps they are off to a leaping start. If they are familiar with dandelions then they will know that they emerge, blossom and go to seed quite quickly. In fact, as children, we even called the seed heads ‘Dandelion Clocks’.

How much living can a dandelion pack into its short life? Well, if it turns into a ‘real’ lion, it can do quite a lot of living, as we see in this story. And, keeping the title in mind, we watch with bated breath as Dan-the-Lion lives his best life. It reminded me of a Harold Lloyd silent movie – one where the protagonist gets into lots of exciting and potentially disastrous situations, yet something always comes along to save him. And there is a cinematic reference in the story too.

The splashes of gold colour in an otherwise black, white and grey background are so beautiful. The double page spread of little Lion in the city is wonderful. The relative size of the character to the people in the cinema shows how vulnerable he is. However, it also shows that even small creatures can dream of great adventures.

Teachers and parents will be able to mine this story endlessly for discussion, artwork, writing prompts and more. The book is a hymn of praise to the power of creativity and imagination as well as being an existential question raiser.