I recall Rosemary Sutcliff, perched at her desk, reading out loud to my enraptured young son drafts of The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup, which was her first picture book, with illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark. In the UK , the eminent critic Naomi Lewis often reviewed Rosemary Sutcliff’s books. She praised The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup as ‘inspired’ and ‘distinguished’. An American critic said it was a ‘fast-paced fairy tale of loss and joyful reunion’ which was ‘beautifully illustrated’. Naomi Lewis wrote:
A young minstrel adopts a lost infant dragon; they become perfect friends. It’s an elegant little creature when full grown, something like a whippet dog with wings and a long curved tail. But when it is stolen, the minstrel starts on a quest to find it. Not only boy and dragon but the whole byegone landscape comes to life in the inspired pictures of this distinguished book.
In the US, Julia Wotipka wrote:
Youngsters with a fondness for dragons will enjoy this beautifully illustrated fantasy. The story is longer than a typical picture book, but a magical winner. One spring, a young, wandering minstrel finds an odd-looking creature hatching from an egg on the beach. The minstrel plays a simple little tune ‘for waking up to’, and a happy little baby dragon emerges. The minstrel names it Lucky, and the two become good friends, traveling from town to town enjoying good music and plenty to eat. When a scheming traveling showman kidnaps Lucky to use in his show, the minstrel is heartbroken. Sutcliff, a masterful storyteller, has created a fast-paced fairy tale of loss and joyful reunion.
Emma Chichester Clark, the illustrator of The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup, studied at the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College. She was taught by Quentin Blake. Her first book, Listen to This, won the 1988 Mother Goose Award for best newcomer to children’s book illustration. Since then, and including for her work with Rosemary Sutcliff, Emma has since become internationally known. She has illustrated books by Roald Dahl, Peter Dickinson, Kevin Crossley-Holland and Michael Morpurgo. Her own books include the Blue Kangaroo series. In 2008 she published a version of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel.
Sources: Observer July 4th 1993 (p62); The Oregonian June 3rd 1993 (pE04).