The Clockwork Dragon by Jonathan Emmett and Elys Dolan was sent to me by Amazon Vine in exchange for my impartial review.
The Clockwork Dragon is a rather splendid looking picture book. The illustrations are by Elys Dolan, who received great acclaim for her book, ‘Weasels’. The colour scheme Dolan has chosen reminds me very much of the Captain Flynn and the Pirate Dinosaurs series by Russell Ayto. It has the same kind of vibe and appeal.
This is the story of Max, who works in the town’s toy shop. He is obsessed by clock work models, and the toy maker is determined that toys should not have clockwork in them. He gets tired of Max and his inventions and throws Max out. Max needs a new job, but when he goes to the job noticeboard in the town square, the only job going is to get rid of the dragon which is terrorising the town.
Max decides to take the job and goes to see Lizzie, the black smith, who he wants to make him some armour. While he is at the smithy, Max has a genius idea for fighting the dragon and enlists Lizzie’s help.
There are some really strong elements of the story. I love Max’s inventiveness, and the illustrations by Dolan, which look almost like blue prints in places, really complement and bring alive the idea. Lizzie is an excellent character, and I like the fact that she is strong and competent and not a weedy girl who is afraid of dragons.
The illustrations make this story sing. The dragon’s cave picture is absolutely marvellous and full of humour. The detail and depth of the pictures lift the story and really make it work. The story itself is not so strong however, and if it weren’t for the illustrations carrying it I would have found it pretty frustrating.
The ideas are good, but they are not that well realised. The story doesn’t really have a proper start. I read the first page twice, and then went back to see if I’d missed a bit it was so unclear. The narrative doesn’t really hook up properly either. There are gaps where you would want more story to be.
I was quite surprised by this, as Emmett is a prolific author who has written many strong books for children, including; ‘Bringing Down the Moon’, which is a perennial favourite with my children.
Having said that I think it will be very appealing to small children and a nice bed time story with lots of interest points to talk about and things to share and laugh about.