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Dandelion's Dream

Scads of things happen in Yoko Tanaka's Dandelion's Dream; that the book's goings-on are a cinch to follow is all the more impressive given that they're relayed with nary a word.

One night, a dandelion in a field goes through a rather unexpected transformation: it morphs into an actual lion, its leaves now limbs and its flower a lion's face with a yellow orb of mane. Once Dandelion gets over his surprise, he jumps on top of a train: Why not see the world? A sharp turn sends Dandelion flying; fortunately, a sheep's woolly back breaks his fall. Dandelion rides the sheep to a ship that takes him to a big city, a Manhattan look-alike in which he barely comes up to pedestrians' ankles. The star of Dandelion's Dream may be a lion, but he's still the size of a flower.

In her first outing without a collaborator, Tanaka works in charcoal enhanced by digitally applied flashes of dusky yellow that she reserves for Dandelion's mane and tail tuft. As she did with the titular mammal in Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant, Tanaka finds bottomless humanity in the animals of Dandelion's Dream: besides the sheep who cushions Dandelion's fall, there's the bird who extends a wing on the ship so that the little lion can get out of the rain. Tanaka's point seems to be that when someone is willing to lend a hand, a dream can really take flight. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author