The Last Dragon by Polly Ho-Yen

The Last Dragon – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Moving fantasy of friendship and family.
Children’s book title: The Last Dragon.
Children’s author: : Polly Ho-Yen.
Children’s illustrator: : Charis Loke.
Genre: Children’s fiction, fantasy.
Published by: Knights Of Media.
ISBN: 9781913311612.
Recommended for children aged: 9+ year-olds.
First published: Paperback June 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: 9-12 year olds interested in dragons or fantasy tales with a connection to reality, primary aged readers who prefer short texts, KS2 teachers looking for texts to use to generate book talk around issues such as ill health, young carer roles, sibling bonds, anger management, protecting others and our environment.

The Last Dragon by Polly Ho-Yen

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Our review:

In The Last Dragon, Polly Ho-Yen has produced another beautifully constructed title capable of appealing to a wide audience and opening up conversations about issues affecting many young people.

Although at heart this short, engaging story is a fantasy focussed on the discovery and subsequent preservation of a precious egg produced by the last dragon alive, Ho-Yen cleverly weaves this plot into a familiar landscape. Yara lives in Milton Keynes, attends the local school and spends much of her spare time in the local shopping centre – a life that most young readers will relate to.

They may too relate to the difficulties Yara faces in her home life: her younger sister is in hospital critically unwell, her mum and dad are too busy trying to keep their jobs and look after her sister to give Yara the support she needs, Yara is afraid of making friends and is starting to let her emotions get the better of her at school. As such, this book could be an ideal way of opening up important empathic conversations between teachers and pupils, and between young people.

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When Yara is given the responsibility of caring for an egg produced by the last dragon alive, the plot takes a twist and the reader is pulled into a fantastical adventure. Yet still, important themes arise, perfect for discussion with pupils in years 5-7. Responsibility, preservation of species, sibling bonds, trust, friendship and when to ask for help are all themes sensitively explored through Yara’s experience.

The title’s brevity and the level of discussion it could generate would make it an ideal choice for a class read, or could perhaps support a wider History or English topic on legends or mythical creatures. The Last Dragon would work equally well providing comfort and representation as an independent read for a pupil facing similar challenges, or as a title to support pupils in UKS2 that are still building reading stamina due to its short chapters and pacy approach. It is also aided by the beautiful illustrations from Charis Loke.

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Our verdict:

Aimed at children aged 9+, we think The Last Dragon would make an ideal class reader for upper KS2 pupils (Years 5 & 6 in primary school), either as a text for reading lessons or as a stimulus for book talk in PSHE time.

Many thanks to Knights Of Media for the review copy.

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If you like The Last Dragon by Polly Ho-Yen you might also like: Greenwild: The World Behind the Door by Pari Thomson, The Nowhere Thief by Alice M. Ross, Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell and Calling the Whales by Jasbinder Bilan.

Browse our Year 5 reading list and  Year 6 reading list.

About Anna Rushall

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A passionate advocate for English, having taught all year groups across the primary phase and led English for much of the last twenty years, Anna is now using her lifelong enthusiasm for literature to support schools with their English provision on a consultancy basis. LinkedIn | Twitter/X | Reviews by Anna Rushall