Carol Wilkinson waves her pencil like a magic wand and creates a fantasy world set in 141 B.C. China that’s as real as your morning cup of coffee. She begins her story with Ping, a slave girl living in the farthest reaches of the ancient Chinese empire. Before the book ends, you find it quite natural that the young emperor of China has befriended Ping and made her his Imperial Dragon Keeper. The dragon in her care, Long Danzi, is the last dragon in China. Together, they begin two journeys. One journey aims for the faraway ocean that will restore Danzi’s health. The other journey brings Ping a growing awakening of her powers of second sight and magic. Along the way, Danzi guides Ping with Yoda-like wisdom that adds Daoist spiritual teachings to Ping’s innate goodness.
Ping and Danzi need all the goodness they can muster, because their journey and their lives are challenged by drunks, robbers, corrupt politicians and wizards of the underworld. Ping’s believability grows on you because she, like the nine- to twelve-year-old readers for whom the book is written, has flaws, limitations and self-doubts. In fact, Wilkinson gives us a character with which readers of all ages can identify.