by Silvana de Mari
Yorsh is a young elf on his own in the world. The elf village that he lived in was destroyed in a flood caused by the continual rain, and now Yorsh, who is a very young child, has no one to help him. Elves are hated and feared by humans, but when Yorsh meets a human woman who is in equally desperate circumstances, she takes pity on him and helps him out. Later, they meet a human hunter who also joins the group. Hilarious misunderstandings ensue, as elves and humans think very differently. In one such episode, Yorsh, who is horrified at the thought of eating anything that thinks, brings the hunter’s meal, a rabbit, back to life, much to the hunter’s regret. As time goes on, Yorsh and the humans grow to understand and care for each other. When Yorsh discovers a prophecy involving the last elf and the last dragon, he begins to realize that his future may have some surprises in store.
This book caught me quite by surprise. When I read the description, I thought, “Elves..dragons..prophecy..yeah, yeah, seen it before.” But really, The Last Dragon turned out to be quite different than what I expected. It’s playful and funny, yet touching and poignant. de Mari is obviously smart, witty, and creative, and it shows in every word of this book. The initial misunderstanding between the elf and the humans is funny, but it could have easily turned into a one trick pony that would have eventually become tiresome. But de Mari is smart enough to not try to sustain it for the entire book. Instead, like a composer writing a symphony, she has created variations on the themes of perception and point of view throughout the book. As Yorsh grows, so does his understanding of the world and the other species around him. Yet even as an adult, he retails a certain quality of childlike innocence that is very appealing. I also like the way de Mari makes clever use of repetition of certain seemingly unimportant elements to create connections between the different parts of the story.
Sensitive kids should be forewarned that there are a couple of sad parts in the book, but it’s not overly scary.
The Last Dragon is a Cybils nominee