There is No Dragon in This Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright, Bloomsbury
This is another of our most-treasured books and I'm going to try my best not to give too much away. As there are so many wonderful and amusing surprises, it will be far more enjoyable to read if you don't know what's going to happen. I actually couldn't stop laughing the first time I saw the very last page. The ending of this story might be my favourite conclusion to a book out of everything I've ever read - for children or otherwise!
There is No Dragon in This Story is playful, inventive and highly original, and an explosion of fun from start to finish. A dragon grows tired of always being the villain and goes in search of a new adventure, where he can be the hero instead. He embarks on a tour through traditional fairy tale terrain, but there is nothing conventional about this narrative.
The phrase, "There is NO DRAGON in this story," is repeated throughout the text. Young children love repetition and it's important for their developing brains too. This catchphrase also offers opportunities to make the book an interactive experience, as children can learn to say it themselves at the appropriate parts.
There's one part when everything goes dark and my kids love identifying all the characters as they emerge from the shadows. It's hilarious to see what happens when the protagonists are caught by surprise as well as what some of them get up to when they think no-one's watching!
I love books that feature familiar fairy tale characters and play on our expectations of them.
Although this is light-hearted and extremely entertaining, it includes powerful and positive messages about being yourself, believing in what you're doing and working towards goals.
The way the other characters refuse to let the dragon into their stories is similar to how children can sometimes prevent others joining their games. Young readers might be able to relate to (and be comforted by) the dragon's experience of rejection. Despite being constantly excluded, he doesn't give up.
The story shows children that they can do anything they set their mind to, and that just like the dragon, they can refuse to be pigeon-holed. The dragon doesn't change his dreams, or who he is, to satisfy the rest of the characters. In the end, he's not only accepted but championed by all the others. This outcome gently prompts children to be more inclusive.
The other protagonists don't want to break any rules or fairy tale conventions. The dragon is the only one brave enough to challenge the status quo and his perseverance pays off. This demonstrates what can be achieved by thinking creatively and approaching a problem from a fresh perspective.
The author is just as daring as the dragon - breaking the fourth wall and playing with the reader's expectations. I was amazed to discover that this was Lou Carter's first picture book.
Lou Carter has also written Pirate Stew, Oscar the Hungry Unicorn and Oscar Eats Christmas. I haven't read Pirate Stew yet but we have both of the Oscar books and love them. Oscar Eats Easter is releasing on 4th March 2021 and I'm really looking forward to seeing it.
Deborah Allwright is a brilliant illustrator - her work is charged with energy and humour, and is beautiful to look at too. I love the facial expressions and body language she gives the characters. We have the terrific She Rex by Michelle Robinson and Deborah Allwright (read a review) and I hope to get many more of her books.
The three-year-old and the five-year-old adore this book. It's one they request again and again, and they frequently mention the dragon out of context too. I even showed it to my own father recently and he burst out laughing while reading it as well. I can't recommend There is No Dragon in This Story highly enough - it's an absolute masterpiece!
Title: There is No Dragon in This Story
Author: Lou Carter
Illustrator: Deborah Allwright
Publication Date: 1st August 2017