Ellie’s Dragon

Candlewick. Nov. 2020. 40p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536211139.
K-Gr 2–A simple story of the discovery of an imaginary friend, and the inevitable waning of the relationship as a child grows. While at the grocery store, a small white preschooler, Ellie, discovers a newborn dragon and names it Scratch. The two are inseparable at first. Although Scratch is invisible to adults, all the children Ellie meets are smitten with the tiny dragon. As Ellie grows up, the friendship fades—along with Ellie’s ability to see Scratch—until one day the dragon quietly leaves. But not to worry, the dragon is quickly adopted by another friend, a small brown-skinned boy, Sam. Graham’s bittersweet text is a pleasure to read aloud: “Ellie grew some more. She turned five and started kindergarten. She was so excited that she forgot to take Scratch along. It completely slipped her mind! / So Ellie didn’t see her dragon’s first flight…which was mainly downward.” Keen observers will note the way that phones and technology take up more of Ellie’s attention as she grows, but readers are left to draw their own conclusion as to whether that’s a hidden message or simply a nod to reality. Graham’s soft illustrations refreshingly include an authentic variety of body shapes, hairstyles, family units, and more to create a world that feels completely ordinary and a little bit magical.
VERDICT A quiet and sweet contemplation of growing up that is a solid addition for large collections.

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