Title: Luma and the Pet Dragon
Author: Leah Mohammed, illustrated by Loretta Schauer
Genre: Magical realism
Publisher: Welbeck/Allen and Unwin
Published: 3rd May 2022
Synopsis: Two warm and funny stories – with a touch of magic – about Luma and her cheeky pet dragon.
When Luma Dewan wakes up on the morning of her seventh birthday, she knows that today will be special. But she has no idea just how wonderful and extraordinary it will be.
For today is the day she will meet Timir – a real talking dragon. Or at least when Luma is around that’s what he is. When anyone else is there, he becomes an ordinary grey puppy with a fluffy tail, who loves chasing squirrels and bouncing on trampolines.
It’s a big secret to keep – and Luma’s clever cousin Arjun is soon suspicious of this peculiar puppy, who doesn’t quite behave like any other dog. Luckily Luma’s grandmother – Nani – is there to help, and to Luma’s surprise, Nani might just know a little dragon magic of her own . . .
Luma can’t wait for her seventh birthday – it’s the day she is going to get her puppy, Chloe! But when she gets there, there are no girl puppies, so she has to wait a while. That is, until she goes over to Nani’s house for her birthday present, and soon after she finds Timir, a dog-sized dragon, in her back garden. To Luma, he is a real-life dragon who talks, yet everyone else sees him as a puppy who makes funny sounds. Timir is very cheeky – and Luma will need Nani’s help to make sure Timir starts behaving for Luma!
Luma and her Pet Dragon is a fabulous book – two short novellas that introduce the characters and follow on from each other, as we explore Luma’s world, now slightly complicated by the presence of a dragon who pretends to be a puppy. It’s such a fun book that is diverse and magical, so all kids, all readers can see themselves in it in some way – Luma’s culture, her family, the excitement of birthdays and new experiences, or even just the disappointment of the puppy you want not being at the adoption place when you go. Some of the experiences are universal, whilst others might be specific to the British-Pakistani experience, yet the way Leah writes about them is fun and accessible. I think stories like these are important for everyone to have access to so we can find out what other families, other cultures might do, and how they embrace two different worlds and cultures – and what this can mean for them.
The first story introduces us to Luma, Nani, Timir, and the rest of the family, and we get an idea of the family dynamics – of the way Luma feels her cousins are demanding and take over, wanting everything their way, even on her birthday. Poor Luma and Timir didn’t know what to make of what was happening then, but I loved the way Nani came through to help Luma so she could earn Timir’s trust. It was very well done, and then that led perfectly into the second story, about Luma taking Timir to puppy training after another debacle with her cousins, who tried to tell her she was wrong about everything. I loved that Luma found out how diverse dogs were whilst at training, which showed that there are always many ways of being for people and dogs, and I had a little chuckle at Timir’s cheekiness throughout, proving that baby animals of all kinds – even dragons – don’t always like to listen.
This is a fun introduction to a new series, where the two stories will engage readers and capture their imaginations as they dream of having their own pet dragon just like Luma does. And having two short novels in one will help newly independent readers build their confidence and reading abilities as well.
An excellent start to the series.