Perfect Picture Book Friday – Flight of the Last Dragon

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

flight_of_the_last_dragon_cover Flight of the Last Dragon

Author: Robert Burleigh

Illustrator: Mary GrandPré

Publisher: Philomel Books

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-7

Themes: Dragons; Space/Stars; Imagination

Opening:

Come, if you dare,
Deep underground.
Make no whisper.
Shhh! No sound.

Below the city.
Far from the sun!
Beneath the subway,
Where sewers run!

Where mice squeak
And rats mumble,
And distant train wheels
Rattle and rumble.

For here is his home!
Oh, gaze upon
The last of the dragons—
Ultimon!

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) What if dragons were more than just imaginary creatures? What if long ago they soared through our skies? And what if there was only one dragon left? Where might it hide from our machines, from our technology, from us? And where would it go if it spread its wings for one last flight?

What makes it great: The unexpectedness of the story drew me in, and kept me turning the pages. First, there’s the unexpected setting – that the last of the dragons would be living in a cave below a modern-day city, in a weak and tattered body. Then there’s the unexpectedness of what this dragon does, and where he ends up.

What readers notice: I have no idea because my 8-year-old borrowed this book and had it in his room for 3 weeks. I saw him reading it at least twice in that time, so I think that says enough!

What a writer notices: 

The story takes place at night in the city, and the author could easily have told the story without incorporating people at all. However, on the ninth spread he gives us a glimpse of what Ultimon’s flight looks like from a human perspective:

A late-night worker
On the 90th floor
Spies a blur—
And nothing more.

A child turning
In her bed
Hears feathers whirring
Overhead.

This achieves this sense that the reader is in on a little secret that no one else notices. It also fires the imagination as young readers notice things in their own world. Is that rustling sound outside the wind? Or is it dragon feathers?

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Here’s a nice lesson plan about constellations for kids:

http://cas.sdss.org/dr7/en/proj/teachers/kids/constellation/lesson.asp

This website offers backgrounds on the myths and legends behind our constellation names:

http://frostydrew.org/papers.dc/papers/paper-myths/pss-fdo/

The Crayola website has a nice craft activity for making your own constellation:

http://www.crayola.com/crafts/found-constellations-in-outer-space-craft/

12 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Flight of the Last Dragon

  1. Great summary – sounds intriguing! Put it on my TBR.
    Just read another “last dragon” story – middle grade – Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill. Very fun read, with mystery, magic and an unusual heroine.

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