the tea dragon society

It’s been an age since I updated this blog! Too long. I’m out of practice and I have the anxiety to prove it (typing up reviews is v. therapeutic, who knew??)(I did, I just conveniently forgot to make time for it… ). But enough of that. Today I want to talk about one of my favorite bookish things: dragons!  Dragons are the best. THE BEST. Most of my favorite fantasy books have dragons in, and though I know correlation is not causation… DRAGONS are deeply awesome. So when a graphic novel is titled The Tea Dragon Society, well. Let’s take it as a given that I’ll be reading it (and expecting enchantment).

the tea dragon society by katie o'neill cover
From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own. 

Greta is learning the old art of blacksmithing from her mother when she happens across a tea dragon in distress. She returns it safely to its owner, Hesekial, who offers to teach Greta tea dragon lore. But what is a tea dragon? Well, it’s an adorable little denizen of the fantasy world that O’Neill creates in this book. But it is also explained in-text, and I wouldn’t want to spoil that! So take it as read that tea dragons are slightly mystical, unbearably adorable, and the rest of this story is as well.

K. O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Society started its life as a webcomic, and that’s how I originally came across it. In print, it’s a large format graphic novel with a gentle, LGBTQ+-positive story and absolutely gorgeous (and distressingly cute??) art. I read it for the 2018 Cybils awards, and it made the elementary and middle grade graphic novel shortlist—everyone loved it.

So what’s to love, aside from cuteness overload (but really, that’s all you need sometimes!)? Well, there are several things I’d put in the ‘plus’ column. First, the art is full of flowers, and I’m all in on flowers (see my instagram if you have any doubts). Then there’s inventive character design and characters of color. Add in LGBTQ+ rep, disability rep, and a fluffy story that will make readers feel just as happy as main character Greta… plus cool fantasy and magic world-building, and an open ending for future volumes, and there you have it. It’s basically perfect.

When I tried to think of negatives, all I could come up with was that there’s not a whole lot of urgency in the story or plot. That’s not… a fault. Oh well!

If you’re in the mood for quiet magic, soul-soothing beauty, and a moment or two of laughter, then The Tea Dragon Society is the book for you. It will make you wish that tea dragons are real and that you had a big mug of fragrant tea to sip from—even if it’s not tea-drinking weather!

Recommended for: fans of sweet middle grade graphic novels like The Prince and the Dressmaker and Nightlights, readers ages 8 and up with an eye for art, tea drinkers, and anyone who likes quiet, original fantasy in a beautiful setting.

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