Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kumiko and the Dragon's secret by Briony Stewart

I have read many very positive reviews of this junior novel so when it surfaced in our library I grabbed it. I will say the first book was a little disappointing – perhaps a little bit too short but I just loved this second book Kumiko and the Dragon’s secret. All the way through I kept thinking of little girls who would love this small, beautifully illustrated gem.

Kumiko has the ancient blood line of dragons – we discover why in the first book Kumiko and the Dragon. Every night Kumiko and her little sister Arisu are guarded by dragons and up until now they have been safe but in this second installment we read how the Shadow Catchers are rising and they are hungry for dragon power. When Kumiko leaves her house to visit her Obasaan (her Grandmother) the Shadow Catchers pounce and kidnap Arisu. Having captured her they now have power over the dragons which means the dragons themselves are unable to help Arisu. This vital task falls to Kumiko even though she was once very afraid. “I stand up with anger beating through me like a drum. I have been terrible to my younger sister … but there are some things I know for certain…. Life without her would be like the moon falling out of the sky or spring without flowers.”
As with all good folktales Kumiko is given some special gifts to help her in her quest. The oldest dragon makes a ladder so Kumiko can travel from the clouds. For this he uses his whiskers. Next she is presented with an ancient kimono which will be her disguise. Another dragon sheds his tears and as they fall onto her skin they offer a special layer of protection. She has a feather as sharp as a knife and a small necklace from her own guardian dragon Tomodo so she can remember how much he truly loves her.

I have now discovered why the voices and tone of this book feels so authentic and so Japanese. Briony Stewart heard these stories from her own Japanese Grandmother. The fighting scenes, for example, seem to come straight from Crouching Tiger Hidden dragon as Shadow Catchers leap into the air and spring across great distances. There is so much packed into this 80 page chapter book – find it soon – you will not be disappointed.

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