Dragonquest by Allan Baillie and Wayne Harris
Walker Books, 2012. ISBN 9781921977848.
(Ages: 5+) Highly recommended. How wonderful to see a reprint of the award winning picture book Dragonquest (Short-listed, Book of the Year, Children's Book Council of Australia Awards, 1997. Short-listed, NSW Premier's Awards, 1997). A courageous young boy sets out on a bold adventure in search of the last dragon. His companion is a brave Dragon Fighter and together they face many perils: 'the sting of scuttling scorpions, the hundred bites of the banded wasps . . .' and then finally they confront the dragon, 'green glass gleaming in the eye, claws flashing in the smoky sun, fire curling from its mouth . . .'
Here is a book to appeal to any children with a rich imagination and who can imagine themselves as dragon slayers. Baillie's story is rich in description and stunning in its language. The alliteration is superb making this book ideal to read aloud, again and again.
With each nail biting episode, Wayne Harris's illustrations bring alive the dangers that the Dragon Fighter and his brave companion face all the while letting the reader know that the hazards will be overcome. His pictures are a visual feast, with dark and mysterious scenes coloured in deep blacks and greens. Often scary faces peep from behind tree limbs and will send a shiver up the spines of the readers. The final secret denouement, when the last dragon appears and the boy triumphs, is especially appealing and makes a wonderful conclusion to the book.
It is also a book that will appeal especially to boys. Wayne Harris explains in the information at the back of the book, 'Underlying this adventure is the passing on of the mantle of manhood . . . . So in Dragonquest we see the old and the new, one needing to conquer, the other happy to understand.'