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Last Dragon

Last DragonThe Last Dragon
By: Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format: Hardcover, 7 x 11, Full Color, $29.99
ISBN: 978-1-59582-798-2

A Jane Yolen story never disappoints. Never. And The Last Dragon is no exception. Considered one – if not THE – most well respected children's and young adult authors of our time, Yolen just keeps getting better. Just like all of her stories, the story of The Last Dragon is entrancing. It touches the reader's heart and soul.  

Readers of The Last Dragon will find their hearts strings being pulled from the moment they enter the story. A young girl, marginalized by her mother in favor of her two older sisters, is a Belle-like misfit. Misfit or not, however, and just like Belle she is adored by her father; he is her ally and her confidant. But the reader's pleasure at finding the young girl not necessarily such an outcast or misfit is short-lived. Her father goes missing. And she's hesitant to admit she may know why.  

It just couldn't be, though, she thinks. There are no more dragons.

A dynamic story-telling duo Yolen and Guay complement each other to perfection. Able to paint with words Yolen is a master magician of the visual story she wants you to see. Able to write with art Guay is a master magician of the verbal story she intends to illustrate. The dragons, the townspeople, and the settings are all alive. They have a pulse, and the reader can feel it on every page.  

With such a pulsated plot The Last Dragon asks readers to wonder if a young girl's father, and, as time goes by, a succession of other villagers and their animals, could possibly have disappeared due to a dragon that isn't supposed to exist. It just couldn’t be. Could it?

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: When Tansy and her father discover what was thought to be a mythologized weed growing on their island they are both pretty curious to find some answers.  As the day wears on, and Tansy's hands continue to burn from the Fireweed she touched, she becomes increasingly anxious. Her father has not returned from his investigative trip back to the river. That's not like him. It's also not likely that the Fireweed, which only grows where a great dragon lives, has grown by accident.  

Setting: Dragonfield, the islands of May, Meddlesome, Swinekin

Major Characters: Tansy, her father the healer and mother May-Ma, Rosemary her eldest sister, Sage her sister, the carpenter, Mother Comfy, the cooper and his family, the priest, the fisherman, the smith, the three village boys, Lancot, the sexton, the villagers, the dragon

Themes: Family, Misfits, Mythology and Legend, Fate and Chance, Individual and Community, Love, Loyalty, Time

Literary Pairing Suggestions: Aesop's Fables, JRR Tokien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Kevin Crossley-Holland's The Seeing Stone, Beowulf, Homer's The Odyssey, Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle and High School Teachers and Librarians

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*
- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.  

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Recommended Grade Levels: middle and high school

One of the major themes in The Last Dragon is individual and community.  Embracing this theme, the following lesson plan procedures are dualistic in nature, linking the IRA/NCTE standards for teaching both reading (Standards 1 and 2) and writing (Standards 5 and 12).

Standards 1 and 2, Reading
• To begin the reading process, introduce students to The Last Dragon by reviewing some online reviews (possibly from Amazon.com).  As you read each review ask your students: "What are we learning about The Last Dragon from this review?"
• Keep a list of everything you and your students are noticing, visual to all students.
• Building from this discussion ask students to make predictions about what they think might happen in this graphic novel.
• Keep a list of these predictions in another column, visual to all students.
• Since these discussions will probably be lengthy plan the above listed activities for the first class meeting.
• On the second – fourth days of class pair students up with a reading buddy. During each of these three days students will work with their reading buddies to conduct two tasks:
1. Read the assigned reading passages: Day 1, pages 1 – 22; Day 2, pages 22 – 75; Day 3, pages 76 – 142.
2. Based on their own schema and ability to work independently tell students that they and their reading buddy need to keep notes (see Figure 1) on what they are learning, each reading day, about the theme of Individual and Community.  

Figure 1: Handout for discussing the theme of Individual and Community

 

INDIVIDUAL

COMMUNITY

 

 

Our definitions for Individual and Community are . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1, pages 1 – 22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2, pages 23 – 75

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3, pages 76 – 142

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Standards 5 and 12, Writing
• With their reading handouts and before reading discussions close at hand, it is now time to ask students to write about the theme of Individual and Community.
• Put the following directions on the board / overhead: "Use your notes and reading handouts to determine one of three possible, persuasive points about the theme of Individual and Community:
1. The most important theme in this graphic novel is Individuality.
2. The most important theme in this graphic novel is Community.
3. Individuality and Community are equally important themes in this graphic novel."
• To help students' format their persuasive writing essays you may want to review the following example outline:
1. Introduction – main idea (1 out of the 3 options listed above)
2. First body paragraph – first reason why you think your theme(s) is most important
3. Second body paragraph – second reason why you think your theme(s) is most important
4. Third body paragraph – third reason why you think your theme is most important
5. Conclusion – bring all of your points together to make a final persuasive statement to leave with your reader
• When students finish writing (which could be after a few days of writing in class or for homework) ask them to share their persuasive main ideas and supporting reasons. The goal is to have students, whether they agree or disagree, gain a greater appreciate for each other’s various perspectives.  

*NCTE/IRA. (1996). Standards for the English Language Arts. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.