FEINBERG, Anna & Barbara Feinberg (text) Kim Gamble (illus.) Once Tashi Met a Dragon Allen & Unwin, 2013 unpaged $24.99 ISBN 9781741758870 SCIS 1627391
Tashi is an endearing character whose adventures are well-known to readers through earlier books. In this one, a classic hero tale of leaving home, undertaking the adventure and returning home again, Tashi visits the home of the dragon living far away in a cave on a mountain. The dragon brings the rain but, in this particular year the rain has not come. Crops are dying and animals are thirsty so something needs to be done. Tashi discovers from a tiger that there are two dragons and the young one is lonely because his mother (who brings the rain) is asleep and won’t wake up. Tashi befriends the young dragon who, by singing his special song at Tashi’s suggestion, wakes his mother from a ‘demon sleep’. As his reward, Tashi asks her to make the rains come and then flies home in triumph on the old dragon’s back.
The book opens with beautiful endpapers and the illustrations throughout are charming, often with little quirky touches. The layout also works well, with the combination of text and illustration varied throughout the book. The full-page illustration of the mother dragon breathing fire to make rain, and turning pink with effort, is delightful. Gamble’s use of differing shades of the same colour to depict different light conditions is evocative and a key component of the story-telling. The Feinberg/Gamble combination has created a character who inspires and intrigues young children and whose adventures are likely to become classics. MH