In this third instalment of the Gustavo series, Drago introduces young readers to Vladislav Varnaby Roland Dragul, also known as Vlad. This charming picture book unveils a little vampire with a passion for fashion and a colourful secret hidden beneath his black cape. Inspired by a sketch created during the development of Monsters Play… Peekaboo!, Vlad’s journey becomes a heartwarming exploration of self-discovery and acceptance, inviting readers to celebrate their differences and find pride in their uniqueness.
Having been captivated by Drago’s illustrations since her Klaus Flugge Prize winning, Gustavo the Shy Ghost, was published, I continue to admire her distinctive style. Combining cartoon and folk art influences from her Mexican heritage, Drago’s artwork evolves seamlessly from muted shades to vibrant hues as Vlad embarks on his quest for self-affirmation. The hardback variants, a credit to Walker’s design team, present an aesthetically pleasing whole, echoing the warmth and gentle humour found in all three Gustavo stories. The delightful appearance of characters from previous tales adds an extra layer of joy for fans.
Vlad’s character development is portrayed with poignancy, capturing his internal struggle with insecurity and the journey toward self-acceptance. The narrative unfolds gracefully as Vlad, alongside his friend Shelley, discovers the empowering value of embracing individuality. Throughout the story, themes of friendship and self-discovery resonate, providing young readers with a relatable and uplifting experience. This narrative also serves as a powerful catalyst for discussions around accepting oneself and celebrating the unique qualities that define each individual.