The Lost Ryu

Emi Watanabe Cohen

The Lost Ryu
Allen & Unwin
15 June 2022

The Lost Ryu

Emi Watanabe Cohen

Kohei Fujiwara has never seen a giant dragon in real life. The big ryu all disappeared from Japan after World War II, and twenty years later, they’ve become the stuff of legend. Their smaller cousins, who can fit in your palm, are all that remain.

And Kohei loves his ryu, Yuharu, but he has a memory of the big ryu. He knows that’s impossible. In his mind, he can see his grandpa - Ojiisan - gazing up at the big ryu with what looks like total and absolute wonder. When Kohei was little, he dreamed he’d go on a grand quest to bring the big ryu back, to get Ojiisan to smile again.   

But now, Ojiisan is really, really sick. And Kohei is running out of time.   

Kohei needs to find the big ryu now, before it’s too late. With the help of Isolde, his new half-Jewish, half-Japanese neighbour, and Isolde’s Yiddish-speaking dragon, Cheshire, he thinks he can do it. Maybe.   

From debut author Emi Watanabe Cohen comes a story of magic, a mysterious family legacy and the lengths to which we’ll go to protect the people we love.   

‘An extraordinary book filled with dragons big and small.’ Carole Wilkinson, multi-award-winning author of Dragonkeeper


Kohei Fujiwara has an impossible memory. He knows it’s impossible, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s certain he’s seen big ryū (dragons) before. He remembers vividly the smile on his Ojiisan’s face, the majesty of the Eastern Ryū as they paraded through the streets, the elegance of the giant Western Dragon flying overhead. All that’s left after the war are the smaller ryū that can fit in your hand, and while Kohei loves his little ryū, Yuharu, he knows that if he could just find a way to bring the big ryū back from wherever they’ve gone, it will make Ojiisan better.

When Ojiisan is taken to hospital, Kohei knows he’s running out of time. With the help of his half-Japanese, half-Jewish neighbour, Isolde, and her tiny Yiddish-speaking dragon, Cheshire, Kohei and Yuharu set off on a quest to find the big ryū, and make Ojiisan smile again.

Set in Japan 20 years after the end of the Second World War, Emi Watanabe Cohen’s debut novel, The Lost Ryū, is an imaginative and compelling adventure that deals deftly with the legacy of intergenerational trauma, the desire to find a place to belong, and the pure love that we have for our families. Kohei sees the pain in his grandfather every day; Ojiisan drinks and yells and is always angry. And while his mother says to him ‘daijōbu’ or ‘it’s okay, there’s nothing to be done’, Kohei chooses, time and time again, to listen to the memory of his father’s voice saying ‘yamenaide, yamenaide’ or ‘don’t quit, don’t quit’. His struggle to choose compassion and love, even when it would be easier to just give up, is magical because it’s so real. For ages 9+.

Jennifer Fraioli is from Readings Emporium

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