“Zog” is the next most liked book of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s in our home, behind “The Gruffalo”. I first saw it in Eddie Redmayne’s read aloud for Save with Stories and enjoyed it so much that I bought the book the next day. We’ve been reading it for two months now and still enjoying it. I find it a very gentle and playful introduction to the themes of school and learning and practicing, of doctor and of dragons, princesses and knights. Good for enriching vocabulary, as well.
I love the playful and humorous way in which it depicts the dragons’ training to become fearsome, all complete with a severe teacher, Madam Dragon and funny props to learn the necessary dragon skills: a hay stuffed puppet for a princess and two dragons riding each other with a wooden sword for a knight. I like Zog’s hard work in achieving the yearly goals, as well as his clumsiness (blowing fire onto his wing tip or crashing into a tree whilst learning to fly). This compensates for Zog’s overachiever ambition and his misrepresenting the “capturing” of Princess Pearl in order to win the golden star, when knowing himself incapable of it. My husband was weary for a moment about the message little gosling would get from this book. But, once we reached the end we discovered more levels and self-becoming stories. The ending is very modern and liberal, breaking all moulds: a princess who wants to work and be useful, a knight who gives it all up to be trained by the princess into being a doctor and a dragon who is happy and desirous to be their “ambulance” and carry them. Just love how the princess is the strong, authoritative figure, just by her strong mind. So, we decided the story is a fun and good starting point for a conversation on topics such as discovering one’s true self and calling, perfectionism and living up to expectations, not being afraid to follow one’s dream..
The illustrations are very colourful (look at the bright orange Zogt and the odd bright pink dragon among his schoolmates), funny and add so much to the brilliant rhyme! There is so much more to explore in them than in the case of “The Gruffalo”.
Pinpointing little gosling’s favourite bits would take long; there’s something he fixates on on every page :). Zog’s small accidents, particularly crashing into a tree and putting his wingtip on fire, and subsequent cares which the little girl offers always catch his attention (the plaster, the bandage, the peppermint to suck). He feels with Zog every little happening and bump. My favourites are him anticipating “here comes a real live knight” and “I want to be a doctor” :).