Book Club – Zog and the Flying Doctors: Review
No children’s book collection is complete without at least one written by Julia Donaldson. I think we’ve probably got about 15 of her books, so it’s safe to say she’s a big favourite here at chez Ragamuffin. Zog and the Flying Doctors isn’t her best known book but, as far as strong female characters go, I think it’s one of the better ones. It’s the sequel to her book Zog.
Zog is a dragon who goes to dragon school. Each school year he learns a different skill. When he, inevitably, hurts himself practicing his new skills a kind young doctor turns up to help him. When Zog learns how to capture a Princess, he struggles until he meets the doctor who, it turns out is Princess Pearl. She decides to let him ‘capture’ her and he takes her back to school with him. One day Gadabout, a knight, comes to rescue her, but Pearl doesn’t want to go back to being a Princess. She wants to be a doctor. It turns out that Gadabout doesn’t want to be a knight either. He wants to be a surgeon. Together they become the flying doctors when Zog offers to be their flying ambulance.
Zog and the Flying Doctors
Zog and the Flying Doctors tells the tale of some of the creatures that Zog, Pearl and Gadabout help as they travel. During some bad weather they stay at Pearl’s Uncle castle. Pearl gets a bit of a shock when her uncle says that girls can’t be doctors and she must go back to being a Princess. Later, Pearl’s Uncle becomes very ill and not one doctor in the land knows either what’s wrong or how to make him better. No-one apart from Pearl. With the help of Zog and Gadabout she makes a cure and then gives it to her Uncle while he sleeps. When he wakes up cured he realises how stupid he was to think that Pearl couldn’t be a doctor.
Pearl is a great character for young girls to look up to. She knows her own mind enough to be sure that she doesn’t want to be a Princess. She wants to be a doctor to help people and she doesn’t stop trying to cure her Uncle, even though he was unkind to her. All the doctors in the land can’t help him but Pearl, the Princess who was told that she couldn’t be a doctor, does it. I like that her Uncle realises that girls can be doctors, and that she should be allowed to be whoever she wants to be.
In a world where everyone seems to want revenge for something, Pearl is a breath of fresh air. She teaches children that kindness is important even if it’s towards someone who has treated you badly. I think she’s a great role model for all young children, not just young girls.
The pictures were done by the wonderful Axel Scheffler who also illustrated The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom and many more. I love that the familiar squirrels, from the books I mentioned before, make an appearance on the cover. Before I even open the book I feel like I’m at home in this world that Axel and Julia have created together.
I really like Zog and the Flying Doctors. For me, the combination of Julia Donaldson’s rhyme and Axel Scheffler’s bright pictures is always a winner. Pearl is a great character for young girls. She follows her dreams and never gives up even when her Uncle forces her to become a princess again. Pearl also shows great kindness to her Uncle; she still wants to help him even though he told her she couldn’t be a doctor.
There are quite a few alternative princess stories around these days so there’s a bit of competition out there for this kind of story. What it does really well is capture the imagination for younger readers. From what I’ve seen, a lot of those stories target children aged 4+, so the pictures aren’t quite as bright and they don’t all have the lovely rhythm that you get with rhyming couplets.
I think that Zog and the Flying Doctors is great for all toddlers, and those just learning to read. The story is simple enough for toddlers to follow but complex enough to keep new readers engaged.
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