Robust prose and melodramatic art make this quest for the last dragon a thrilling one—despite closing remarks trumpeting its relevance for…boys.
“Hey, you! Yes, yes, you with the book! Up, up, we have deeds to do!” So the Don Quixote–like narrator addresses a lad (in modern dress)—pulling him out of his chair, across a deadly desert and through sinister woods where “three dark witches coil evil spells.” They skirt an abyss where “thorned demons” and “a fright of vampire bats” dwell and finally make it to the top of Glass Mountain: “Dragon country, at last.” In Harris’ ruggedly atmospheric landscapes, snakes slither past dry bones on rippling dunes, hideous faces leer from leafy shadows, glimpses of centaurs and other magical creatures give way to steep, snowy peaks. Though the grizzled knight fails in the end to spot draconic quarry, his impromptu squire—and readers—has quite a different experience over a pair of wordless climactic reveals. Harris’ view of the underlying theme as “passing on the mantle of manhood,” echoed in a separate comment from his Australian publisher, is, to say the least, misguided; this adventuresome quest will richly reward any and all who undertake it.
The book distills most of the quest tale’s archetypal elements into a heady brew that will rouse readers of both genders. (publisher’s, author’s, illustrator’s notes) (Picture book. 7-10)