Review of The Boy Who Grew Dragons, by Andy Shepherd, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

The Boy Who Grew Dragons

by Andy Shepherd
illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Yellow Jacket (Little Bee), 2020. First published in Great Britain in 2018. 212 pages.
Review written March 21, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a gentle and amusing fantasy story that reminds me of books I loved when I was a kid. There’s no agonizing over realistic consequences, no deep dark inner turmoil – we’ve got a kid who grew a dragon in his grandpa’s garden and now is trying to hide his little fire-breathing pet from his parents and the class bully.

The note from the main character nicely gives you an idea of what you’re in for if you read it:

When people ask me what we grow in Grandad’s garden, I think they expect the answer to be cucumbers, tomatoes, or green beans. I don’t think they expect the answer to be dragons. But there it is. We grow dragons. And I can tell you this – they’re a lot more trouble than cucumbers.

Things cucumbers do not do: Poop in your dad’s oatmeal.

Singe your eyebrows.

Make a really cozy nest by shredding all your mom’s alphabetically ordered recipes.

Leave your underwear (the embarrassing ones covered in backhoes) hanging from the TV antenna.

Chase your cat.

Drop cabbages on your cat.

Try to ride your cat like a rodeo bull.

Wake you up at 4 a.m. every morning by digging razor-sharp claws into your forehead.

Set fire to your toothbrush WHILE IT’S STILL IN YOUR MOUTH.

Of course, they also don’t have scales that ripple and shimmer like sunlight on the sea. Or have glittering eyes that can see right into your heart. Or settle on your shoulder with their tail curled around, warming your neck, and their hot breath tickling your ear.

Nope, none of these are things you can expect from a cucumber. Well, not any cucumbers I’ve ever come across. Maybe a mutant radioactive space cucumber, but not your average garden variety. But dragons? Well, they’re a whole other story.

So, who wants to grow dragons? Dumb question, right? I mean seriously, who in their right mind would say no? Not me, that’s for sure. And not you by the looks of it.

But if you want to grow dragons, you need to know what you’re getting into. Sure, they’re fiery, fantastical, and dazzling, but dragons are not all fun and games. Not by a long shot. And it’s not just the fire and the flammable poop I’m talking about. Oh, no!

Which is why, my dragon-seeking desperados, I’m writing this all down, so at least you can go into it with your eyes open. Because, believe me, you’ll need them to stay wide, wide open.

This book is full of light-hearted fun. It doesn’t delve into a lot of questions about why this would happen or how the whole world wouldn’t know if it did – it simply has fun looking at one boy it happened to. Sure, there’s a classroom bully he has to deal with, and a mean neighbor next door, but Tomas is just an ordinary kid who’s delighted to now have the coolest pet in the world. Grandad is an especially lovable character who sees the best in everyone, Tomas’ parents are busy and distracted, and Tomas’ little sister Lolly is young enough that no one understands she’s talking about an actual dragon.

Tomas’ friends notice something’s up right away. Can he keep the secret from them? Does he want to? But would they believe him if he tried to tell them? The only way would be he’d have to show them….

I’m delighted to learn this is the start of a series. It’s a light-hearted and short book with lots of illustrations and plenty of magic and fun.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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