Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona, illustrated by Anna Cunha

    Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona, illustrated by Anna Cunha, Lantana Publishing, 9781911373636, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? Anita uses her imagination to fancy herself a real princess in her home, the Dominican Republic. But her family is bound for a new country where her mother looks forward to hot water, a real dryer, and electricity.  Anita thinks about all she’ll have to leave behind, like her beloved Abuela and the salt-drenched air. Still, she wants to be brave, even though that means boarding a dragon that roars, has eyes along its body and wings sprouting from its sides. The artwork, in earth-tones and a combination of mixed media and digital techniques, is warm and abstract, with enough detail so that children will immediately understand that Anita is not really a princess in a castle and that the dragons are, in fact, airplanes. I saw a strong visual debt to Ezra Jack Keats, especially The Snowy Day

The language of the book is rich and evocative and the passages are lengthy for a modern children’s book, with 2 to 3 sparse paragraphs per page, but read rhythmically and sound almost like free verse. Carmona includes many sensorial details: the sing-song chant of a vendedor, the rumble of the “dragons,” the looks the family exchanges as they leave their homeland behind. I loved the image of the family walking up the stairs to the plane clutching just one small suitcase, which has now transformed into a giant light-blue bird. Anita and her family all have dark brown skin and black hair, and the book used many Spanish words, all of which can be understood through contextual and visual cues.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would be a wonderfully rich text to introduce a unit on immigration or more broadly, on traveling somewhere new to start life over. After reading this, children from age 4-8 would be able to discuss why Anita’s family chooses to leave, but why they might also want to stay. Families who are considering a relocation may also find it a useful story to open discussion about uncertainty and sadness. A great read aloud choice.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 14, 2021

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