The Tea Dragon Festival Review

Title:  The Tea Dragon Festival
Author: Katie O’Neill
Published: September 2019
Publisher: Oni Press
Readership: Kids
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of The Tea Dragon Festival from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Revisit the enchanting world of Tea Dragons with an all-new companion story to the two-time Eisner Award-winning graphic novel The Tea Dragon Society!

Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

Critically-acclaimed graphic novelist Katie O’Neill delivers another charming, gentle fantasy story about finding your purpose, and the community that helps you along the way.

I remember hearing a lot of buzz around The Tea Dragon Society last year, particularly on Booktube, and it’s always been in the back of my mind to pick it up and read it, but I hadn’t gotten around to it… yet. When the opportunity to review The Tea Dragon Festival came up, I couldn’t turn it down because everything I knew about the first book led me to believe it would be beautiful and whimsical and pretty much something I’d love.

And was a I right.

The Tea Dragon Festival is a wonderful tale of finding your place in your community and helping others as Rinn stumbles across a dragon who’s been asleep for 80 years and feels out of place. Rinn is, in turn, trying to figure out their place within the community they’ve grown up in and together they begin to make sense of themselves and their world. Alongside Rinn and Aedhan, there’s Rinn’s uncle, Erik, and his partner Hesekiel, who are also finding their path, and all of this is set in a charming community village that’s as naturally diverse as one we would come across in our daily lives.

That’s one of the things that struck me most about this beautifully illustrated graphic novel – it’s diversity. Everyone we meet has their own story, path and potential and the diverse range of characters never feels forced or like characters have been given traits simply to say ‘Hey, I’m a diverse character.’ There are characters who are on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, characters who are deaf (and there’s an awesome little intro on how to read the signed conversation in the graphic novel to distinguish it from spoken conversation), old characters, young characters, a whole community of vegetarians… and of course, the tea dragons, themselves who have personalities of their own!

The storytelling is magical, and that’s in part to the gorgeous art style, but also the setting and the way characters come together. You can’t help but be drawn into the world. It’s utterly charming and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon curled up on the couch reading.

My heart was completely stolen by the Tea Dragons – tiny dragons that represent different plants that can be used to make tea, and they all have their own little personalities that jump off the page. What’s not to love about dragons and celebrating the drinking of tea?

I loved this instalment so much I immediately purchased a copy of The Tea Dragon Society online so I can read it. (I may have also shared a few pages of The Tea Dragon Festival with my class to get their thoughts on it… and they’ve been bugging me to continue reading it to them ever since!)

In a world full of books tackling heavy topics, this is a ray of sunshine that deftly handles the real world in beautiful way.

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