Flight of the Last Dragon

Robert Burleigh, illus. by Mary GrandPré. Philomel, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25200-6
Burleigh and GrandPré blend the ancient and the contemporary in this bittersweet portrait of the former king of the dragons, who now hides alone in the sewers of a city: “Weak, alone,/ He wades in the slime,/ Lost in dreams/ Of a long-ago time.” Burleigh’s rhymed four-line stanzas are pitch-perfect and filled with intriguing images; remembering a time when dragons “breathed hot flames/ In jewel-filled caves,” Ultimon says, “And I am left/ With thoughts that pass/ Like grains of sand/ In an hourglass.” GrandPré’s illustrations offer a painful contrast between the glories of dragons past and Ultimon’s current enfeebled state, with tattered wings, a walking stick, and a broken horn. Lest Ultimon’s story gets too depressing, Burleigh and GrandPré conspire to create a triumphant finale in which Ultimon is transformed into a glittering, golden dragon—his wings resembling flames more than feathers—as he finds the strength to fly one last time and gains a permanent home in the sky; an afterword gives details about the constellation Draco. A melancholy but moving story of finding one’s way home after the world has changed. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/03/2012
Release date: 10/11/2012
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