Monday, March 18, 2019

Shelf Awareness--Gondra's Treasure

PB Review: Gondra's Treasure

Gondra's Treasure by Linda Sue Park, illus. by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Clarion, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780544546691, April 2, 2019)

Gondra is a dragon. Her "mom's family comes from the West" and her "dad's family is from the East"; Gondra "was born somewhere in the middle." In Linda Sue Park and Jennifer Black Reinhardt's second collaboration (Yaks Yak), young Gondra playfully explores the benefits of inheriting two very different cultural backgrounds.

This charming narrative unfolds in bantering dialogue among the three family members. Gondra's mother explains that "in the West, dragons breathe fire," while Dad says that "in the East, dragons breathe mist." When Gondra shares a baby photo of herself, she points to "a teeny tiny flame... coming from one nostril and a wisp of mist from the other." Young readers will understand perfectly that lucky Gondra reaps the benefits of both branches of her heritage--in particular, "mist is great for hide-and-seek" and fire comes in handy at a barbecue. The affection between Gondra's parents is always obvious as they cheerfully tease each other about their attributes: Dad thinks fire is dangerous; Mom thinks mist is "pretty boring" ("compared to fire," that is). Certainly, both adults agree that Gondra was "adorable... the most beautiful baby ever."

Gondra goes on to explain other ways her Eastern and Western roots merge. Both of her parents can fly, but "Mom has wings," while "Dad uses magic." If Gondra's wings grow and she inherits flying magic too, she'll "be the fastest in the family!" As for scales, Dad's are "mostly blue and green" and Mom's "side of the family has bronze scales." Gondra herself is "mostly bronze," but the end of her tail is starting to turn the bluish green of her "dear old dad." When Gondra starts talking historical habitat, readers learn that "Mom's ancestors lived in caves full of treasure," while Dad's "family lived in lakes or rivers," their only treasure "a magic pearl that [they] could hold in one claw."

Reinhardt inventively illustrates the various points of Gondra's narrative, perfectly expressing the enthusiasm and awkwardness of the not-quite-grown protagonist. The colorful ink and watercolors depict a cozy, if slightly zany, household, where mist causes rain to fall in the living room if Dad gets too excited. The character design may be somewhat silly but the dignity and grace of Gondra's dragon family is undeniable and, though they have their differences, the love they share is evident at every turn. An interesting author's note provides some historical information on dragons, but the focus of the story is clearly on Gondra's ancestry, and how she is the beautiful product of her mixed heritage. Her loving parents don't need caves full of treasure or a "magic pearl to control the weather" because "times change," and Gondra is "the best treasure ever." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Shelf Talker: Gondra, daughter of an Eastern dragon and a Western dragon, muses about the attributes of her mixed heritage that make her unusual.

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