“ Author: Helen Ward / Format: Mixed media product / Date of publication: 01 May 2007 / Genre: Picture Books / Publisher: Templar Publishing / Title: The Dragon Machine / ISBN 13: 9781840119909 / ISBN 10: 1840119909 / Alternative EAN: 9781840115949 „
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A nice little book that I've got for my 4 and 7 year olds. Story about a little boy's imagination running wild about dragons everywhere written by Helen Ward. Although the book has a fair few pages, there is not much text to each page, and instead is filled with lovely grainy drawings of the dragons and the 'dragon machine' illustrated by Wayne Anderson.
My 4 year old loved the pictures and the idea of dragons everywhere and took everything in a literal sense. On a few of the pictures there are dragons hidden and you can play 'spot the dragon' with the odd foot or tail sticking out places.
My 7 year old understood the dragons weren't real and just the boy's imagination and where the dragons were causing trouble it was just really him.
But overall the story didn't really make that much sense (if imaginations are supposed to) - just the boy saw dragons then had to build a machine to take the dragons back to where they should live, nothing particularly fun or exciting but a good bedtime story for smaller children.
Author: Helen Ward
Illustrator: Wayne Anderson
Publisher: Templar Publishing
Publish Date: January 2005
Genre: Childrens Picture Book
Age Suitability: 3 - 6
RRP: £5.99 Amazon Price: £4.79
***What is the book about?***
A young boy named George who like many, feels ignored and over-looked by everyone around him sees dragons wherever he goes (or does he?) and gradually he develops a following of the mischievous little creatures. Although George is the only one who can see these dragons, he eventually grows tired of having to clean up after them and take blame for the broken carnage they leave behind. After careful research George decides to build a wonderful flying machine that will lead them home.
***Who wrote it?***
Helen Ward is a trained illustrator having studied at Brighton School of Art under several well known childrens illustrators. This tuition resulted in her earning the first Walker Prize in 1985 for Childrens illustration.
She has since gained recognition, most prominently for her illustrative contributions to revised classic tales such as the Hare and the Tortoise and The Wind in the Willows. In addition to these she was short-listed for the Kate Greenway Award in 2003 for the Cockerel and the Fox which also won the British Book Design and Production Award that same year.
Helen has obviously developed a keen empathy for dragons and such like creatures. Other recent works of hers include Working with Dragons, Dragonologists Writing Kit: from the Desk of Ernest Drake and Dragonology: The complete book or Dragons as well as collaborating on Wonders of Egypt, A Course in Wizardology, Egyptology Stationery.
***Who illustrated it?***
Perhaps considering Helen Ward is in fact an illustrator; it may seem unusual to learn she used someone else to add to her written word on this project. However, Helen and Wayne Anderson have worked on several projects together including the ology series mentioned above which were created by a team of contributors.
Anderson became a freelance illustrator after studying at Leicester Art College from the age of 15. His portfolio includes a variety or projects prior to becoming involved in book illustration including designing greetings cards, posters, book jackets, magazine articles, album covers and even lucrative advertising work for companies like British Airways, Budweiser and British Gas.
However, it is illustration work which has gained him recognition having won several awards over the years including overall winner of the National Art Library Illustration Awards in 2001 and Highly Commended Prize for the Victoria and Albert Illustration Awards in 2002
***What I liked about this book***
George, the main character in the story is portrayed in a likeable manner and in a way that all kids (and one or two adults) can relate to. Without sounding like moaning Ward manages to capture the loneliness and frustration kids often feel further endearing him to us.
Ward has also captured beautifully the importance of children using and exploring their imagination. Not everything has to make sense or be easily explained. Sometimes things just are.
I love that she writes for her young readers without an ounce or patronism. As a mother I almost felt as if she shared a sort of inside joke with my son as if she could relate to him rather than to her contemporaries. She has a very gentle, easy style to her writing managing to neither over complicate what is going on, nor condescend to her audience. This is a book which sparks a childs imagination. The proof of this is in the fact that my sons dreams have suddenly changed from the Power Rangers and Marshmallows dreams he has told of for several months to dreams of Dragon spaceships and his two cats that sleep at the end of his bed actually being dragons themselves (The good kind of dragons though he assures me!)
The illustrations for this book reminded me of another book I have loved reading with my son, The Baby Who Wouldnt GO To Bed. (See review on ciao). The images are painted in the most delicate almost hazy way and yet still manage to hold an incredible amount of detail. Each page can hold you for several minutes just absorbing what has been laid out before you. The softness and the warmth of colour used makes it a much more relaxing read perfect for before bed.
Anderson has gone to great lengths to give the reader a chance to interact with the images before them. A prime example of this is the crowd scene at the very beginning. Not only have small pocket-sized dragons with cute munchkin faces been dotted around for readers to find, but if you look closely, you can see that some of the Adult passers by have got very unusual feet, or a pointy tail sticking out from under their coat. Kyle loves finding these quirky little creatures and it guarantees his full attention and makes him feel more a part of the reading experience.
He paints with a sense of calmness and a magical feel which can clearly be seen throughout not only the dragon machine development stages but through the entire book.
A wonderfully vibrant, creative, imaginative, warm story for young children to fall asleep dreaming about.
A story about a lonely boy with a passion for dragons showing the power of the imagination to free the spirit, and the importance of friendship.