Have You Seen My Dragon?

The cover of this striking book shows a bustling black-and-white city street and the tangle of pipes and wires below it, where a green foiled dragon nestles, his smoky breath drifting up through a manhole. A little boy in an orange jumper stands peering down at the smoke and smiling. This is the boy who has lost his dragon, and we travel through Manhattan with him, visiting all the places he thinks the dragon might be and doing some counting along the way.

The text merely directs the journey – the focus is on the illustrations. Each spread depicts a city location, rendered in black and white, with something to count – the things to be counted are in colour. Because of this, the items are easy to find, making it more of an exercise than a hunt. But counting across the pages makes you engage more with the illustrations and, in doing so, observe the myriad background details – each page is full of activity: people, cars, animals moving through the city and their day. Light often uses interesting perspective, with streetscapes flattened and two-dimensional at times, which lends even greater interest. And the endpapers feature a map of the boy’s journey, easily followed by small fingers.

I had hoped for more fun in the ending, in finding out where the dragon actually was – his being in Chinatown would probably be more impactful for those familiar with Manhattan. To those unfamiliar, it seems just another location. However, the sense of movement and busyness plus the wealth of detail will ensure children will return to it again and again, always with something new to see.