The Red Red Dragon

The Red Red Dragon
Lynne Reid Banks, illustrated by Kristina Kister
Walker Books

The author transports readers to a world of dragons and uprights (humans as we know them). The latter have been forced from the mainland (the Great Ridding) following years of war between them and the dragons. Now the dominant beings, the dragons have become a caring, peaceable community and they solve any problems that arise through discussion and debate.

Into the dragon community is born a dragon named Ferocity but on account of being the only red dragon he becomes known as Red once he starts dragon school. Not only is Red a different colour, he appears to possess the capacity to use his ‘think-space’ to think thoughts that other dragons can’t. Add to that, the notion that he is central to some ancient legends that are important for a shared future for them all. The current problem for dragons however, is their essential need: supplies of coal have almost gone and need to be replenished in order that their chest fires can remain hot. The only way to do so is make contact with the uprights, they who have hands and can mine. This is the mission that Red and his parents undertake.

It’s wonderful watching how Red develops during this mission, which is full of adventures, especially as the bond between him and the young upright Lou, grows. Particularly exciting is the development of his ‘thinks’ as he gains an understanding of ideas such as the imagination described thus, ‘It had the sound of beautiful newness. Like the start of warm-time when everything is bursting, and anything is possible.’ Indeed it is the young beings – Red and Lou, who are the real channel for meaningful interactions between the two sides and with them lies the possibility of future reconciliation.

This is a wonderful, moving story that radiates warmth and hope for a better world. Wonderful too are Kristina Kister’s black and white illustrations, especially those between blocks of the narrative.