Return to T Ching Classics: Back to School
While researching a topic I was considering writing about, I (happily!) stumbled across a delightful short comic called “The Tea Dragon Society” by author and artist Katie O’Neill. As a lifelong comic fan as well as having a tiny (haha) interest in tea, I was intrigued. I read the entire comic in short order and was completely enchanted!
Set in a magical fantasy world where “people” includes both human and sentient humanoid animals, the comic is told from the perspective of a teen girl named Greta of goblin and oxen descent who is learning from her mother to be a blacksmith. Greta happens across a “tea dragon” in need of rescue, and subsequently returns it to its owner. And that’s how we learn that in this world, tea isn’t a plant: It’s harvested from the antlers of tiny pet dragons, who need careful love and care to thrive! So each flavor or type of tea is a different type of dragon, each with its own unique personality.
The story is sweet and charming, but also casually blends in progressive ideals. There is a friendship between teen girls who come from wildly different backgrounds, an established homosexual relationship, and a character who is physically disabled. I thought the author/artist handled the inclusion of these concepts gracefully, subtly introducing them in a way that did an excellent job of normalizing and showing that it’s just life.
The art is colorful and bright, with bold backgrounds and a minimization of hard lines. The attention to detail when it comes to the numerous plants, emotional responses, and subtle highlighting is exceptional. Relying more on subtle shading and shapes than the typical line-heavy comic style, the story is more what one is accustomed to from a children’s book. It’s no wonder it has won numerous accolades and awards as a result, including:
A 2018 Eisner Award Finalist
ALA Rainbow List (2018)
Nominee for the 2018 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids Comics
Amazon.com’s Best Comics & Graphic Novels (2017)
School Library Journal’s Top 10 Graphic Novels (2017)
Images acquired from the comic website, with permission of author/artist Katie O’Neill.