Anita and the dragons by Hannah Carmona and Anna Cunha

cover image

Princesa Anita lives in her palace on the island of the Dominican Republic. She can see dragons over the rooftops of nearby houses. She  knows that one day one of them will take her away, but until then she jumps from one cement roof to the next, going to the market and talking to people on her island. But the day comes when she and her family must leave, going to the airport to board the dragon. Her mother tells her of the good things about their new home: electricity to read at night without interruption, restaurants and a dryer. She bids farewell to the people who matter, particularly Abuela but she promises to send many photos.

This story of moving, relocating, of shifting houses will recall incidents in many students' lives, when they too were hesitant about the move their family must make. Anita's fears are reflected in her fear of the dragons she sees in the sky, dragons she knows take people to other places, away from their island. Despite Mum telling her of the good things they can expect after their move, Anita is still scared, and it is only when she realises that the whole family feels as she does, that they board the plane, ready to face a new adventure.

This is a disarming story of overcoming fears and facing up to change, as Anita leaves her beloved island where she has lived all her life to an unknown place far away.

The delightful illustrations give a flood of information about the Dominican Republic, causing me to check it out on a search engine, as I am sure others will too. The warmth of the family centred illustrations underscores the family's going away together, of the family supporting each other in this time when all are feeling wretched about leaving their island and those they love.

Several Spanish words are used in the story, (Abuela, arroz con leche, princesa for example) prompting readers to work out who they mean from the text, say them out loud and learn them.

Fran Knight