The Dragon with Red Eyes (Draken med de Roda Ogonen, 1985) is a beautiful book translated by one of Astrid’s most faithful translators, Patricia Crampton. I cannot say enough good things about her. Nor about Ilon Wikland’s pictures, which are, as always, phenomenal.
For an author who writes so much fantasy, magical creatures rarely make an appearance in her writing. It was a treat to hang out with a dragon for this book. Even though it stars a dragon, it’s a very ordinary situation: one day in the barn after the sow has birthed piglets, there is a baby dragon, as confused as its mother. The children who discover it help it grow and take care of it.
All throughout summer it grows, but seems depressed, though there are moments of levity. Finally it spreads its wings and finds its own life.
The book is poignant and heartfelt. It would be a good book to read to a child who is about to lose a pet or has lost a pet already. It is a sad ending with goodbyes and loss, but I think picture books often sugarcoat the human experience. Not every book needs an incredibly happy ending. It’s a good ending, not an entirely happy one.
If the following sentence doesn’t move you, I am not 100% sure if you are human: “It was one of those evenings filled with longing – though for what, you cannot tell.”
In other news, this dragon appeared on Swedish stamps! This website gives the background on this. Mind-blowingly cool!