PPBF – Anita and the Dragons

Regular readers know that I love stories that feature moving house, especially when they involve international moves. I recently read a new picture book about a move from the Dominican Republic to the United States that I think you’ll agree is a Perfect Picture Book!  

Title: Anita and the Dragons

Written By: Hannah Carmona

Illustrated By: Anna Cunha

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2021

Suitable for Ages: 3+

Themes/Topics: emigration, imagination, bravery, moving

Opening:

Today is the day I will meet the dragons – large winged beasts who will carry me away. For years, I have watched the dragons high above me as I play, hopping from one cement roof to another. Their snarls shake the gravel roads.

But being the valiant princesa I am, I never let them scare me!

Brief Synopsis: Anita, a young girl with a vivid imagination, prepares to emigrate from her native Dominican Republic.

Links to Resources:

  • Anita and her family live in the Dominican Republic. Learn more about this Caribbean country;
  • Anita describes airplanes as dragons. How are airplanes like dragons? How are they different? Draw a picture of an airplane, a dragon, or a dragon airplane;
  • Reread the opening lines, “Today is the day I will…” What will you do today to overcome a fear, complete a task, or fulfill a dream?
  • Check out a few other activities and coloring sheets here.

Why I Like this Book:

With courage and imagination, Anita, a young Dominican princesa, prepares to enter the belly of a dragon with her family and fly to a new home. I love how Anita portrays the airplanes that fly overhead as dragons, dragons that she will conquer. I think kids will relate to her worldview and plucky spirit. Those with siblings will enjoy how she dismisses her brother for questioning that they live in a palace, stating simply that she would never allow “a toad like you inside my walls”.

Those who have faced new situations will understand the physical manifestations of fear, the sweat, the clenched stomach, clammy hands, and a “rock the size of my fist” landing “with a plunk in the empty pit of my stomach.” Despite this fear, despite the necessity of saying goodbye to beloved family members and their island home, Anita and her family bravely “stand strong”, entering the beast’s belly to journey towards “new adventures”.

I love how the focus of Anita and the Dragons is on the courage and strength Anita displays as she and her family leave the beloved familiar and journey into the great unknown. Because Anita is such a strong character, I felt no doubt by story’s end that she would conquer her new homeland and establish a new palace there, one befitting a true princesa.

The beautiful pastel illustrations evoke Anita’s island homeland while a stylized illustration of an airplane makes clear that the family is journeying to the United States.

Anita and the Dragons is a wonderful choice for classroom and family reading with its many opportunities to discuss the differences between island life and life in an American city and ways we can overcome our fears to embrace new adventures.

A Note about Craft:

From the assertive first line, “Today is the day I will meet the dragons”, to the hopeful ending with its promise of “new adventures,” Carmona has crafted a picture book that showcases a strong main character overcoming her fears. I think by analogizing the airplanes to dragons, an image I think many kids will relate to, and by characterizing Anita as a brave princesa, a character I think many kids will want to emulate, Carmona shows readers that they, too, can adapt to change, even a major change like an international move. I also think it’s refreshing that Carmona highlights the positives of Anita’s life in the Dominican Republic and some things that await them in the United States. Finally, Carmona includes a scene in which Anita vows that she will return to “my island”, that she “will see you again.” I think this accurately reflects the experience of those who emigrate but hold their place of origin in their hearts and, when able, return home, even if simply to visit.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

4 responses to “PPBF – Anita and the Dragons

  1. A story we need with so many refugees seeking a safe haven today.

  2. This is intriguing. I love strong characters with vivid imaginations! Thank you for this wonderful introduction!

  3. What a lovely share today. It love the opening as it signals to readers how scary a big move to another country can be! I have a fondness for the Dominican Republic, as I’ve visited there several times. Will be looking for this immigration story.

  4. That cover is gorgeous! And it’s good to see this imaginative perspective overlayed onto a story about leaving one’s homeland. Thanks for the rec, Patricia!

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