The legendary, serpent-like dragon has been a feature of stories for centuries, the star of folklore from cultures across the globe.
Rarely has a character played such a range of roles, from fearsome, fire-breathing foe to the gentle giant protecting children under attack.
As a proud Welsh woman, my dragon is Y Ddraig Goch, the red beast taking centre stage on the national flag and who is said to date back to AD 829.
So what better time than St David’s Day – the national day of Wales – than to share some picture books about dragons that get our roar of approval?
1. Zog by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. £6.99 (paperback), Alison Green Books.
Every dragon should know how to fly over enchanted lands, give a fearsome roar, breathe flames of fire and capture a princess. Zog works hard at school to master these vital life skills but try as he might, he never wins a gold star.
But when the keen student encounters Princess Pearl, who would rather be a doctor than saved by a knight, he finds a way to use his dragon skills to help others.
Julia Donaldson’s rhyming text is as spot on as ever in this charming tale, while we love the stereotype-smashing Pearl, soft-at-heart Sir Gadabout and the endlessly enthusiast, accident-prone Zog. Buy from Amazon
Which Julia Donaldson character is the author’s all-time favourite?
2. Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett. Thames & Hudson.
Franklin loves stories and reading them to people, but everyone is too scared of the big green dragon to listen… until he meets bookworm Luna. The result is a 21st century fairytale that is sweet, inspiring and beautifully illustrated.
The two lead characters of this story are particularly great role models for children too – well read, passionate and peace-loving. We especially love the concept of sharing their love of stories with others by creating a bookshop on Franklin’s back. Buy from Amazon
Jen Campbell tells us about the real-life bookshops that inspired Franklin’s Flying Bookshop
3. How To Catch A Dragon by Caryl Hart & Ed Eaves. £6.99 (paperback), Simon & Schuster
This fantastical instalment of the Albie books sees the little boy have an extraordinary adventure when he visits the library in an attempt to complete his homework task of drawing a dragon.
While browsing the bookshelves he meets a knights, who whisks him off into a world of trolls, bears and mythical fire-breathing dragons! Not only will it appeal your child’s sense of adventure, but we love the hidden message about the exciting places you can explore when you go to the library and open a book. Buy from Amazon
Caryl Hart shares the inspiration for her book Girls Can Do Anything
4. Dragon Post by Emma Yarlett. £10.99 (hardback), Walker
Another witty and interactive tale from award-winning Emma Yarlett, about the fiery friendship between a little boy and a dragon he finds under his stairs.
Perplexed about how to look after his unusual new pet, resourceful Alex writes to the fire brigade, the butcher and others for advice – and your child will just love opening the adorable envelopes to see their entertaining replies. Buy from Amazon
5. One Moonlit Night by Zanna Davidson & Seo Kim. £14.99 (hardback), Templar.
Dreams come to life in this nighttime adventure over magical islands, across frothy seas and past the moon, on the back of a majestic dragon who reminds me of Falkor from The Neverending Story.
It’s also quite beautifully made, from the textural quality of Seo Kim’s illustrations to the complex pop-ups that bring each scene alive, and of course the glittering cover. Buy from Amazon
8 beautiful books about the moon
6. Wishing For A Dragon by Becky Cameron. £6.99 (paperback), Hodder
A child’s sense of adventure and imagination are celebrated in this charming tale, which sees Olive, Barney and Ella step into a hot air balloon at bedtime and encounter pirates, tigers and ponies with candyfloss hair along the way.
When night descends, the dragon Ella has wished for appears to keep them safe – and take them back to bed before the sun rises again. A really lovely debut by author-illustrator Becky Cameron that will make you feel all warm inside. Buy from Amazon
7. The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon by Richard Adams, illustrated by Alex T. Smith. £6.99 (paperback), Hodder.
Watership Down author Richard Adams made up this story about a homemade dragon who comes to life to entertain his children. Decades later, his family enlisted Claude creator Alex T. Smith to bring the enchanting character to life.
We’re delighted he did, because this is a book with humour, charm and quirk. Mischievous Egg Box Dragon might breathe fiery holes in coats and frighten the cat with his roar, but his talent for finding missing possession sees him quickly become a celebrity – and a national treasure when the Queen loses a diamond from her crown. Buy from Amazon
8. Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights by Steve Lenton. £6.99 (paperback), Nosy Crow
Don’t be fooled by the pink cover. This is no run-of-the-mill princess in distress story – it’s a hugely funny tale of female pluck and a sweet dragon who just wants a bedtime story.
When the knights of the realm prove to be utterly useless at dealing with the frightening roars coming from the dragon’s cave, we love how Princess Daisy rides in to save the kingdom – astride a cow and armed with a book rather than a sword. Buy from Amazon
100 children’s books with female lead characters
9. There’s A Dragon In Your Book by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Greg Abbott. £6.99 (paperback), Penguin
This clever interactive sequel to There’s A Monster In Your Book sees a cute but fiery little dragon emerge from an egg and cause all sorts of chaos, which your child needs to bring under control.
We love how this book encourages little ones to become an integral part of the drama, rather than a passive observer, while the instructions to blow out flames, give high-fives and flap the pages will keep everyone amused and engaged during storytime. Buy from Amazon
What is Tom Fletcher reading with his children at bedtime?
10. Sylvia and Bird by Catherine Rayner. £6.99 (paperback), Little Tiger Press
It’s lonely being the only dragon in the world so Sylvia is delighted when she meets Bird. She’s tiny and so very different, but the enormous dragon helps her new friend to build a nest and their days are happier just being together.
This story about friendship and belonging is very touching, while the artwork by Kate Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner is a gorgeous and delicate mix of blues, greens and yellows. Buy from Amazon
11. Billy and the Dragon by Nadia Shireen. £6.99 (paperback), Puffin
Sassy Billy and her cool companion Fatcat return for another comedic adventure in this follow up to last year’s brilliant Billy and the Beast. This time our heroine with the glorious hair has to save her feline friend from a dangerous dragon who snatches him from a fancy dress party.
But as Billy scales a mountain to try and snatch her pal from his fire-breathing captor, she spots a lost baby dragon – and realises the catnapping is a case of mistaken identity. As with all of Nadia Shireen‘s books, this story is quirky, witty and has strong messages about friendship. Buy from Amazon
12. When A Dragon Goes To School by Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw. £6.99 (paperback), Nosy Crow
Behaving at school isn’t always easy, especially if you breathe fire and have a fierce roar. But little dragon shows that every pupil can be a good friend and a helpful student in this second book by Hart and Beardshaw’s charming series.
We love the bright and warm artwork as our dragon and her two pals navigate their way through the school day as well as the repeated refrain of “Why no! Dragons don’t do that” – perfect for little kids to join in with. Available from Amazon
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