I don’t remember where I first heard about The Tea Dragon Society but I was instantly hooked by the name, as it contains two of my favorite things, tea and dragons. While taking my ten year old gift book shopping (we always give books as birthday presents), I pointed out The Tea Dragon Society and said that I really wanted it. She remembered and gave it to me for my birthday this past weekend!
Katie O’Neill wrote an endearing story with charming, beautiful illustrations and wonderful characters. The story is a sweet reflection on friendship and traditions, and finding your way in the world. The artwork is soft and lovely with perhaps a bit of manga influence. Her world is peopled with a mix of human and mythical beings in a variety of shades and different relationships, with one differently abled character in a wheelchair.
Greta is learning to become a blacksmith, like her mother. She possesses the gift for blacksmithing but her heart doesn’t seem to be in it. She wonders what is the point in sword making if no one wields one anymore. One day she encounters a tiny dragon being harassed by dogs. Greta rescues the dragon and brings it home, to learn it belongs to Hesekiel, who runs the tea shop just outside of town. Greta reunites Hesekiel with his dragon, Jasmine, and is introduced to the world of tea dragons.
What follows is a touching story of Greta learning about friendship, patience, memory, identity and honoring the past by preserving traditions. Through her desire to learn all about tea dragons, Greta befriends partners Hesekiel and Eric. They teach her about the ancient art of caring for tea dragons, incredibly long-lived, fussy creatures that require consistent attention. This level of need is rewarded by the magical properties of the tea brewed from a tea dragon’s horns. The bond between tea dragon and owner is so great that the tea dragon will absorb memories of times spent with the owner. These memories can be released to the drinker of tea made from the dragon. Greta also makes a friend of Minette, another tea dragon caregiver, who has lost her memories and is trying to sort herself out. Minette is very shy and uncertain of herself but Greta’s warm personality and support slowly coaxes MInette out of her shell. Caring for tea dragons is becoming a lost art as people are in too much a rush to take the time necessary to grow the tea and the commitment of caring for a creature that will outlive the owner. Through coming to appreciate the craft of tea dragon husbandry Greta realizes that her own skill as a blacksmith is a talent worth preserving.
The is a an all around beautiful book that everyone in our house has fallen in love with. There is also a game based on the book, presumably about raising tea dragons. I may need to make a suggestion for my Christmas present…