Above our home in the south of Athens, Greece, Lorenzo often sees dragons. That’s what he thinks aeroplanes are, as we’ve been reading Anita and The Dragons. The book is no fantasy yarn, but is actually about migration: Anita, a little girl from the Dominican Republic, tells the story of her last day in her country before she hops on a dragon with her family in search of a better life.
Written by US-based Latinx author Hannah Carmona and illustrated by Brazil’s Anna Cunha, the book is one of my favourites for several reasons. First of all, it ventures lightly into a heavy topic that is otherwise difficult to approach: economic migration.
But there’s something else: I love the idea of an aeroplane as a dragon. I like the idea that Lorenzo doesn’t see these machines as vessels to go away on for work or leisure. I like that he can imagine something bigger. That he is learning about an aeroplane as a way to escape war or poverty, as an unimaginably big creature that tears people apart from their worlds. I also love the appeal that dragons have on young children, and how the book plays with that. Dragons are the stuff of fairytales. They can be the dreamlike creatures that bring us closer to our loved ones who live far away.
Aeroplanes are also awful polluters — another thing which makes them beast-like. It’s purportedly the worst side of a dragon, imagined as an out-of-control, fire-spewing monster that destroys everything around it.
Lorenzo looks at dragons from afar. He doesn’t remember the dragon he rode to meet the Argentine side of the family before the pan…