The Tea Dragon Society and The Tea Dragon Festival are two graphic novels for kids by Kate O’Neill. They are set in a fantasy land populated by various animals and creatures called tea dragons, which grow tea leaves on their horns. Society follows a girl called Greta, who is training to be a blacksmith but who finds herself also interested in caring for tea dragons. Festival is set before the events of Society, following Rinn, a cook who meets not only tea dragons but a fully grown dragon named Eadhan, who was put under a mysterious sleeping spell for eighty years.
Both of these stories are really cute! I love O’Neill’s art style overall. The scenery is beautiful, the character designs are great, and the expressions are great and full of personality. The dragons especially are simply precious; I want all of them to hang out in my house forever.
The stories of these two graphic novels are so charming! Greta getting to know the tea dragons, as well as the side characters like Minette, Hesekiel, and Erik, was lovely to witness in Society. Not only is this a sweet tale about making new friends and learning new things, it is also about the importance of not losing old techniques and knowledge. The raising of tea dragons is an old traditional practice, but Greta sees that it is valuable and beautiful, and it allows her to make meaningful connections along the way.
In Festival, we get to know new aspects of this great tradition, as well as the history of this cute fantasy world. Rinn is a great protagonist, and the connection shared with Eadhan the dragon is the star of the show. However, I loved seeing Erik and Heseziel as younger people in this story, seeing the earlier days of their relationship while knowing that they end up happy, too. And again, memory and history remain important themes here, as Eadhan in particular deals with his long life and the significance of the past.
I also adore the diversity present in this. Characters of color, queer characters, a deaf character, and a gender non-conforming character. The stories aren’t about these diverse traits, but that makes it even nicer to see, for me. People who can relate to these characters will probably love seeing themselves represented in such a sweet pair of stories.
I wish there had been a little more time spent taking care of the tea dragons, but then that’s just me; I love dragons and want them all the time. I also wish there had been a bit more detail in the world-building. I didn’t really know what some of these characters are, like Hesekiel. He’s some kind of animal, I think, but I didn’t find it really clear.
In the end, though, these were minor things in the wake of how lovely the stories are. These are such soft, gentle, creative fantasy stories with great characters, gorgeous art, and wonderful messages. Also dragons, which is always a fantastic thing.
Overall rating of The Tea Dragon Society: 8.5/10
Overall rating of The Tea Dragon Festival: 8.5/10