Jill & Dragon
By Lesley Barnes
Published by Tate
Sometimes at the end of a story, not every character gets a happily ever after and that’s the case in Jill & Dragon, Lesley Barnes’ debut book. Lesley Barnes is an illustrator and animator, based in Glasgow, who has worked in fashion, music, children’s literature, film and product design and has truly created a stunning illustrated book and one that actually achieves a true happy ending after all.
“The king and his knights captured the terrible dragon and they all lived happily ever after” said the last page in Jill’s story book but Jill notices that the Dragon doesn’t look very happy. Asking the Dragon why he is sad, Dragon informs Jill that the King hates him because all he can do is burn and scorch everything in the Kingdom. So Jill suggests that Dragon come live with her and that she will teach him to do all of her favourite things. Jill tries to teach Dragon how to flower arrange but Dragon is just too big and knocks everything over. Jill then teaches Dragon about fashion but that doesn’t work out so well and when Jill tries to teach Dragon the trumpet, he creates fireworks. While trying to teach Dragon how to host a tea party, Dragon looks sadder than ever and knows he doesn’t fit in anywhere but something catches Jill’s eye at the table and she has an idea.
The next morning, armed with a fork, Jill and Dragon fly back in to the huge story book where Jill demands to be taken to the King. Jill wants to show everyone what Dragon can do and holds up a piece of bread where Dragon carefully begins to burn and char the bread to create a flattering portrait of the King. The knights pass the toasted portraits back to the King where he nibbled a corner or two and proclaims it truly fit for a King. Dragon is invited to live in the castle and make the King toast. Dragon moved in and made toast portraits for everyone and lived happily ever after. Jill was very happy with that ending!
Jill & Dragon is a lovely book with a heart warming tale, reminding us that everyone has a talent, however well hidden. But what really stands out within this book is the impressive and beautiful illustrations. There’s a medieval fairy tale feel what with the patterns used, the screen printed effects and the choice of colour palette. Even the texture of the paper works well with the story. There is also an extendable page which shows the Dragon’s mighty fire while creating the toasted portraits.
Jill & Dragon is a lovely new take on a fairy tale that any adult or child will love. This magical book is available in all good bookshops or online here.