A young chipmunk finds his path.
Twig lives with other rodents and small mammals on the Hill, which is made of discarded metal, plastic, and rubber. But this isn’t dystopic pollution—narrative descriptions are romantically pastoral, with golden sunlight, sweet-smelling earth, bird song, and bees in honeysuckle. Twig’s problem is school: he doesn’t merit being named master of any specialty (such as Weaver, Smelter, or Carver) at the upcoming Naming Ceremony and will be forced to work as a scorned, lowly Errand Runner. Venturing farther afield than he’s ever been—down a river he’s never seen—Twig finds an egg that hatches into a dragon in front of his eyes. Animal-fantasy purists will be as surprised as Twig himself. Sneaking the dragon home, Twig faces issues of integrity. The dragon’s fiery breath welds metal for Twig’s school projects, which is cheating; encaging a dragon is wrong. Freeing it, on the other hand, might free Twig, too. Twig’s friend Lily, a rabbit, stays by his side, and an enemy inexplicably turns friend. Textual platitudes are dull stuff but easy to skim over. What’s special are Cole’s black-and-white pencil drawings, earnest yet emotionally sharp. Many are full-bleed pages; some convey information that the text doesn’t, such as the fact that the Burrow of Confinement (the Hill’s prison) is an abandoned front-load washing machine.
Nestled in a small trim size, this is an appealing and accessible genre blend. (Fantasy. 6-10)