cover image Night Sky Dragons

Night Sky Dragons

Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illus. by Patrick Benson. Candlewick, $15.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6144-1

Peet and Graham, who most recently collaborated on Mysterious Traveler, add to their library of tales about children from other times and places with this story about Yazul, a boy who lives along the Silk Road. Yazul’s father is lord of a han, of one of the great communal shelters along the trade route, and Yazul earns his displeasure by breaking a precious plate, a family heirloom. When bandits lay siege to the han, Yazul redeems himself with a surprising scheme. “Is this how you imagined them?” asks Yazul’s kindly grandfather, helping the boy construct giant black kites with which he plans to terrify the bandits. “Are they scary enough?” Using one of the new inventions that the Silk Road brought to the West, Grandfather loads gunpowder into kites’ bamboo tails so they’ll explode like firecrackers. Benson’s (North) pen-and-watercolor portraits concentrate on details of costume and culture, lingering on Yazul’s peaked boots and upturned cap. The result is an adventure that, despite its distant setting, makes it clear that Yazul is not very different from the readers of his story. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)