On our last visit to Malaysia, one of the many books we brought home was this children’s story called The Great Dragon Warrior. My children like dragons but are scared of destruction. And so fortunately, this book has none of that and is very relatable to even very young audiences.
There once was a young dragon named Basmi. Basmi dreamed of becoming a Great Dragon Warrior, but didn’t know how to become one.
And then one day, while Basmi and his friends were playing they heard a groan in the nearby cave. “Who’s there?” they asked. They were surprised when the voice introduced himself as Omodo, a Great Dragon Warrior!
And thus began Basmi’s adventure to becoming a Great Dragon Warrior. He traveled long distances and underwent terrifying challenges to complete his mission for his new mentor. He listened, admired and even shared his mentor’s stories with the rest of the dragon community. In the end, however, he discovers that his mentor was not all he expected him to be.
Warning: Some spoilers ahead!
Bravery is something my children somewhat understand, thanks to their favorite show Paw Patrol. Paw Patrol is a children’s cartoon program about a group of rescue dogs and their owner saving their town time and time again. They have these gadgets and customized vehicles that allow them to do extraordinary acts. One dog, for example, can fly thanks to her pack. My children love enacting scenes from the show, and so it’s no surprise that they find Basmi relatable.
But what does bravery include, exactly? This is something my children and I (especially L1 and I) have talked about quite a bit, mostly through stories and sometimes even in real life situations.
When my children have a fight, for example, I explain that hurting someone else is not considered brave. It’s just plain bullying, especially when the other person is smaller or not as strong (not very applicable in my daughters’ cases, since L2 is growing up too strong too fast!). When we are outside, my children know not to talk to strangers because although people are generally nice, if we are not lucky some of them might actually be bad. If someone offers them a candy, they can accept if I’m next to them and if I say that it’s okay.
And that’s because when bad people are around, sometimes even a ton of bravery won’t be enough. And so I explain that sometimes, it is best to avoid such situations rather than try to be brave.
In this story, Basmi is sort of a superhero-in-training. He finds a mentor and almost blindly obeys his request (I say “request” because in the story, Omodo says “Please” when he asks Basmi to get him some spring water) in order to pursue a long-time dream. He dismisses his friends’ plea to not risk his life to get spring water and, fortunately, he survives his mission.
I agree that he was brave to go through all those trials.
But I ask my children to try to analyze Omodo, this dubious character in the cave who says he can’t come out because sunlight is fatal to him. First and foremost, Basmi trusted a stranger and did as he was told. Is that something we really ought to do? What if it was a trap?
And in the end, Basmi also discovers something else that breaks his heart. That’s another question we can challenge our kids with: when disappointed, how should we react? What should we do in Basmi’s case? Should we have revenge? Should we hate?
This children’s story is straightforward but allows a few questions in between. It allows us to question and discern the choices made from time to time.
Wait, you might wonder, isn’t that a bit too much for a three-year-old and a two-year-old? Don’t you think you might be overanalyzing this children’s book a bit?
I think it depends on the child. When we ask our children questions but they reply with quizzical expressions (or just ignore you completely), then maybe it’s not time yet. L2 is still a bit young for that, but L1 isn’t. When I try to discuss with L1 she looks at me intently. Sometimes she also throws back questions and even suggests alternatives or other precautionary measures.
If you don’t agree with my version of “bravery”, then that’s okay. What matters is that our children understand this abstract concept, and I believe that the earlier they understand it the better. And this book is a great way to start that discussion.
The Great Dragon Warrior was written by Ng Swee San and was illustrated by Wen Dee Tan. Click here for a preview of the book. This children’s book is also available on Local Books SG, your one-stop online bookstore for all Singaporean books (and yes, they have international delivery!).
This book is part of my 52 Children’s Books from Asian Authors collection. Discover more children’s books by Asian authors by clicking this photo below: