Tatsu is a Pygmalion of a dragon, a creation of cloth and paint and yarn who comes to life through the good offices and good wishes of others. First it is the balloon man who blows him up, then Gushi the gardener whom he saves from execution, then the honored Daimyo who invites Tatsu to the fire-fighting ceremony, and most important, the Daimyo's spoiled daughter, Kiku, whom he guards at the ceremony. As the result of his brave deeds, Tatsu is appointed watch-dragon for the young maiden, but still he yearns to be a real dragon like his ancestors. Three wishes granted by the God Hotei get him into trouble and out again, and only at the very end does he get his most secret wish--the scaly wings of a real flying dragon. The author takes Tatsu and the reader on a number of jaunts, real and imaginary, throughout Japan, but the story drags along in pedestrian style like Tatsu without his wings. The sources of his magic are somewhat mixed-up and his progress from limp body to legendary hero is very erratic--he's no match for other members of the fire-breathing family.