The Dragon of Ynys by Minerva Cerridwen.
Atthis Arts, Detroit, Michigan, my edition 2020, originally published 2018.
All ages fantasy, 132 pages including back matter.
Sir Violet’s duties as knight have fallen into a familiar pattern – he goes to the dragon’s cave, and after some banter a missing item is returned. Until instead of his morning cinnamon roll, he finds the baker’s wife distraught – Juniper is missing! This sends Sir Violet on a quest for not only the missing baker, but a few other things he didn’t know he was missing.
I bought this book entirely because of a post; I didn’t realize the age level until it crossed my feed. Not that this is only for kids, it’s especially written as All Ages – a rare find!
Much like the dragon, I’m a collector, only my hoard is books. I like the collection to fit together in various pleasing ways and am always looking for new releases that fit categories seldom seen in diverse MG fantasy. Three areas have been elusive -stories set in South America or Australia, LGBTQ+ representation, and indigenous stories. We are finally seeing movement on the latter two, so I have high hopes for more English-language South American MG fantasy in the next five years.
I was initially disappointed at the length. The main story is only 118 pages with generous spacing. MG fantasy novels (which this isn’t, but is the comparative genre I’ve been most heavily immersed in lately) tend to run longer, so on my first reading this was at the back of my mind… until the fairly detailed back matter. Knowing that the $13 list price goes towards fair payment for editors, sensitivity readers, and others made me much happier about the price versus length.
Although the book is smaller, it’s well formatted. The cover, while not especially exciting, conveys the gist and is nicely laid out. Simple works better than wrong! As someone who personally and professionally handles dozens to hundreds of books daily, I can tell it’s not from a mainstream publisher – but nowadays well made titles aren’t obviously POD to most casual readers.
I am disappointed that there’s no good cataloging publication data. The copyright page has Content Notes, a sadly uncommon practice. Clearly much love and care was put into creating this and seeing the Library of Congress Control Number gave me hope it would be fully cataloged, thus much more accessible for schools and small libraries to add to their collections (assuming they even can buy books independently).
However, as of this writing the LOC catalog shows a woefully incomplete MARC record. Many libraries, especially school libraries or small public libraries, rely on altering existing records to suit their particular needs when adding new books to their collection.
Why is this important? It matters as a barrier preventing this book from getting to more people. It matters because for many libraries, not having a record provided means even a donated copy might not get added into the collection. It matters because this is a common issue.
A useable MARC, a correct OCLC and LOC record, and a WorldCat presence make a big difference in accessibility. Big publishers handle these, as well as other details like getting an AR quiz or a Lexile level. So now you know why, as of this writing, there’s unfortunately only one physical copy of The Dragon of Ynys listed in Worldcat.
Cerridwen’s protagonists are relatable and resolve conflict the way I imagine mental health professionals would handle disagreements. They inquire about pronouns, Violet is an example of non-toxic masculinity, and (mild spoiler) the dragon shows us that not only female dragons can be the ‘civilized’ tea-drinking type. Characters are described by personality or gender references but not with racial markers.
I was also confused because ynys means island, but the story wasn’t set on an island. Perhaps a Welsh person could kindly clue me in to any cultural relevance I’ve missed. Librarians can be assured that Ynys is the most difficult word to pronounce in the book.
This reminded me very strongly of a much shorter, more fairytale-ish, modern Kiki’s Delivery Service. While the tale, length, and format are very different, the setting of Ynys has the same feel; an ultimately benign friendly place with no villains, only misunderstandings and errors. Both are also books that could absolutely be read to the youngest or most sensitive child but with enough depth to interest a fantasy-minded adult.
Short, and heavy on emotions over action, but sweet. I can wholeheartedly recommend it for classroom, school, and public libraries, although stewards of larger collections will have some debate over where to shelve it. I just hope it gets into some of those places.