Mimi and the Mountain Dragon / On Angel Wings

Mimi and the Mountain Dragon
Michael Morpurgo and Helen Stephens

I’d not until now come across this story, despite it originally being published five years ago and subsequently made into a musical play. It’s said to be inspired by the author’s visit to a village in Switzerland some years earlier and tells of a fearsome dragon that lives in her castle lair high in the mountains, and a little girl, Mimi who lives in the village below.

One snowy Christmas morning Mimi discovers a baby dragon in the woodshed.

As the entire village population, her father among them, had been chanting ‘Death to the Mountain Dragon!’ the previous day, she knows she must keep him a secret and get him back to his mother as soon as possible.

Waiting until everyone else is safely inside the church for the Christmas service, she bravely sets out alone up the mountain.
Once at the castle, Mimi almost decides to flee when she finds herself face to face with the terrifying Mountain Dragon; but before she can move, the baby launches himself towards his mother and the two are reunited.

With mother and baby dragon now back together, Mimi is no longer scared but she knows she must get back down to the village. She also knows that the disaster that happens thereafter has nothing to do with the Mountain Dragon as the villagers suppose.

All ends happily thanks in fact, to the dragon …

With the folk style feel to Michael Morpurgo’s Christmassy telling and Helen’s equally folksy illustrations, this is a timeless book that can be enjoyed and revisited year after year.

On Angel Wings
Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake

Created by dream team erstwhile Children’s Laureates Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake, this is a beautiful reworking of the nativity story for older readers/listeners.

Imbued throughout with warmth and humour, Michael Morpurgo’s telling captivates from its opening lines, ‘The truth is that once we weren’t children anymore, we never did believe Grandpa’s story, not really—as much as we might have wanted to…. We still loved listening to it, though. Christmas nights would never have been the same without it.’ This sets the scene for Grandpa, then a young shepherd boy, to tell his tale of what happened on the night Christ was born.

A family of shepherds is visited by the angel Gabriel: “Oh dear … I can see you are going to need some convincing,“ he says in response to their questions but convince them he does (with the aid of a host of angels).

Off they set towards Bethlehem leaving the far from happy youngest among them to mind the sheep, despairing of the unfairness of his situation.

But then Gabriel appears before the boy

saying “So I’ve had this idea, to make it a little fairer. I could fly you there and back, lickety-split, and no one would ever know you’d been gone.” (I love that use of colloquial language.) And so he does with the result that the lad is the first visitor to the stable.

He leaves the infant his very own shepherd’s crook before Gabriel wings him back to the flock of sheep, though that isn’t quite the end …

Quentin Blake’s distinctive ink and watercolour illustrations deepen both the wit and poignancy of Morpurgo’s telling making this a book to cherish.

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