The Unicorn Rescue Society, The Basque Dragon (Book 2)

Illustrated by Hatem Aly

“I believe that someday we will be able to undo all the damage the Schmoke brothers have done to the world and its creatures” (170).

In the second book of the Unicorn Rescue Society series, Uchenna and Elliot accompany Professor Fauna to the Basque country in order to save a Herensuge dragon who has gone missing. Guided by Professor Fauna’s local friend Mitxel Mendizabal, the group discovers that the evil Schmoke brothers have abducted the dragon to use its saliva as a miracle cure for their baldness and in other medical experiments. The Unicorn Rescue Society is called upon to venture into the Schmoke brothers’ labs, release the dragon mother, and save her and her family from the clutches of greedy billionaires.

An animal fantasy for elementary grades, The Basque Dragon illustrates two issues related to wildlife conservation: how biodiversity loss, wildlife trafficking, and cruelty against animals are driven by profit-oriented, extractivist capitalist logic (the Schmokes’ labs) that sees nonhuman animals are mere resources; and how protection of keystone species (like the herensuge are for the Basque people) is central to preserve the health of local ecosystems and human cultures alike. The traditional Basque knowledge that dragons’ spit can be used to cure many illnesses is exploited by the evil Schmoke brothers to kidnap the dragon and harvest its spit. The brothers starve the dragon in order for it to generate spit when they place food near her: a clear case of animal abuse that the book condemns. However, the book also raises questions about whether or not humans have the right to use animals’ healing properties or bodies in order to help people. In fact, Mitxel’s brother Íñigio partnered with the Schmoke brothers for this very reason, hoping their technology will “help… and heal… the whole globe!” (167) without harming the dragon. “You said no harm will come to her, and we’d make the world a better place” (116). Unfortunately, the Schmoke brothers care only about themselves and show no qualms to respect, let alone protect, the dragons’ rights to exist. 

Another important theme in The Basque Dragon is the protection of keystone species. The extreme cruelty the Herensuge Dragon faces communicates that hurting an animal, no matter the purpose, is wrong. Each animal is their own individual creature with their own needs, including a need for its own habitat, and a need for kin. The dragon, for example, has a family that was unjustly torn apart by human intervention. But as Mitxel reminds his brother, “She is not our dragon. […] She is her own” (167). In an act of ecotage, the dragons are freed back into the mountains. They are recognized as part of the Basque heritage (see biospheric inheritance), protecting which is everyone’s duty: “Our heritage is too precious to ignore,” Íñigio tells his brother Mitxel. “I shall help you protect this beautiful family of herensuge” (169-170). This activism requires local knowledge and local stewards like Mitxel: “These mountains are full of uncharted caves. … I already know of two others … that would make ideal lairs for the herensuge. She and her family would be safe, and the Schmokes would not know where to find her” (168-9) The book asserts that no one owns or is allowed to harm animals. As Uchenna and Elliot become full members of the Unicorn Rescue Society, the book calls on all readers to do everything we can to stop the likes of the Schmoke brothers from continuing to demolish ecosystems and exploit wildlife.

©2023 ClimateLit (Kai Resler, with later edits by Alexandra Delacruz and Marek Oziewicz)

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See The Unicorn Rescues Society series for more reviews

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2018

Pages: 191

ISBN: 9780735231733

Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13)

Format: Novels

Topics: Animal Cruelty, Biodiversity Loss, Biospheric Inheritance, Collective Action, Conservation, Ecotage, Extinction, Greed, Habitat Loss, Habitats, Keystone Species, Mythical Creatures, Protection, Wildlife, Wildlife Trafficking, Youth Climate Activism

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