Book Review: ‘Gondra’s Treasure’ by Linda Sue Park, illus. by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

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Gondra’s Treasure

Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt — Clarion Books

Reading: Jennifer Black Reinhardt and Sarah Prineas

Prairie Lights — Sunday, May 5 at 3 p.m.

It’s an age-old tale to those of us who lived it, but there are still too few children’s books out there featuring mixed-race families. There’s a uniqueness to the experience of being multi-racial that transcends any of the individual heritages involved (case in point: The character I related to growing up was Star Trek’s Spock!).

This proves all the more true in the delightful Gondra’s Treasure, a storybook aimed at ages 4-7 that explores the experience of Gondra, a young dragon with a mother who is from the West and a father who hails from the East.

The text, by Linda Sue Park, is a mythology nerd’s dream, with dozens of little details that only parents are likely to catch. The mother’s gruffness and susceptibility to flattery, for example, may stick out at first, but delightfully capture Western dragon lore — an unsurprising attention to detail from an author best known for historical fiction.

Newbery Medal-winner Park works for the second time here with Iowa City-based illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt (they collaborated on Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs in 2016). The illustrations in this book are what make it a true joy to experience.

Gondra’s facial expressions are a delight. And despite having no lines, my favorite character in the book by far is Gondra’s exceptionally patient pet cow. The illustrations capture the fantastical whimsy inherent in a baby dragon. The adults are designed with that same flare — less formidable than traditional dragons; more the way a child would see their parents.

My youngest is a bit below the target age for this book, but even though it is a bit wordy for her, she is in love with the pictures. And she offered the most coveted of exclamations when we reached the end: “Again!”

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 263.

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