Lost Ryu

lost ryu   Emi Watanabe Cohen

The Lost Ryu

Kohei Fujiwara has never seen a big ryū in real life. Those dragons all disappeared from Japan after World War II, and twenty years later, they've become the stuff of legend. Their smaller cousins, who can fit in your palm, are all that remain. And Kohei loves his ryū, Yuharu, but...

Kohei has a memory of the big ryū. He knows that's impossible, but still, it's there, in his mind. In it, he can see his grandpa - Ojiisan - gazing up at the big ryū with what looks to Kohei like total and absolute wonder. When Kohei was little, he dreamed he'd go on a grand quest to bring the big ryū back, to get Ojiisan to smile again.

But now, Ojiisan is really, really sick. And Kohei is running out of time.

Kohei needs to find the big ryū now, before it's too late. With the help of Isolde, his new half-Jewish, half-Japanese neighbor; and Isolde's Yiddish-speaking dragon, Cheshire; he thinks he can do it. Maybe. He doesn't have a choice.

In The Lost Ryū, debut author Emi Watanabe Cohen gives us a story of multigenerational pain, magic, and the lengths we'll go to protect the people we love.---from the publisher

208 pages                                    978-1646141326                                         Ages 8-12

Keywords:   fantasy and magic, adventure, dragons, Asian culture,  grandfather, diversity, diverse books, helping others, quest, secrets, historical fiction, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, illness, dragon, multicultural


Kohei lives in Japan in the 1960s. The memory of World War II is still fresh, but the large dragons that used to thrive in the area are gone, superseded by smaller dragons that accompany people. Kohei has a dragon, Yuharu, whom he loves, but his grandfather, Ojiisan, is having a miserable old age since he is missing the larger dragons. When new neighbors from the US move in, Kohei isn't thrilled, but gets to know Isolde, who is his age. She is half Japanese and half Russian, and has a Yiddish speaking dragon named Cheshire. She agrees to help him find out about the larger dragons in order to help out his grandfather. His father is gone, but he hopes to find clues in his father's office. Based on what they find, the two decide to take off to the coast by train and to try to get to Ryūgū-jō, a dragon sanctuary off the coast, to hatch an ōyatama (dragon) that will help the grandfather's mood. Their plan is tricky, but they learn a lot about each other's pasts, and even though things don't always go well, Kohei and Isolde benefit from the journey in many ways.

Strengths: I always love reading books set in other countries, and right now a lot of my students are always very much interested in Japan. Dragons are also extremely popular. The idea of having one's own dragon, a very small one that is super helpful, is such an intriguing possibility. I loved that Kohei was so concerned with his grandfather's well being, even though the two had a somewhat rocky relationship. Isolde is an interesting character, and her feelings of not fitting in no matter where she is will speak to many middle grade readers. The adventure by train to the coast, and the magic they experience with the dragons, is the best part of the book, but I don't want to go into too many details. This was well-paced, moved quickly, and offers just enough details about the dragons. While I appreciated the historical setting, this isn't really a historical fiction novel. (Which can still be a hard sell in my library, although interest has grown over the last few years.)

Weaknesses: My students don't have much historical knowledge. While I could tell this was set several years after WWII, it would be great for younger readers to be told right away an approximate year. Also, I didn't take notes on this and suffered some Fantasy Amnesia, so apologize for abbreviated review. A dragon on the cover would not have hurt my feelings and would have helped get the book into the right students' hands.

What I really think: Because of the popularity of Tui Sutherland's Wings of Fire series, dragon books are much in demand in my library. It's great to see a story centered on Japanese dragons, and I'll gladly add this to my list of newer dragon books like the Tsang's Dragon Mountain, London's Battle Dragons, Halbrook's Silver Batal series, Pasternack's Anya and the Dragon, Prineas' Dragonfell, Burgis' The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart Durst's Spark, as well as older dragon titles.

Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Teacher Librarian, Ohio USA

See more of her recommendations: msyinglingreads.blogspot.com

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