The Clockwork Dragon

illustrated by Elys Dolan

The Kingdom of Rodney is being terrorised by Flamethrottle the dragon. Fortunately Max, a young toymaker, and Lizzie, an armourer, are more than a match for this man-eating monster and the two of them come up with a clever plan to drive it away.

“This gorgeous book is filled with action, small detail and fun concepts which will provide plenty of talking points for parents and children … Destined to be a roaring success.”

“A rip roaring adventure combined with exciting illustrations … a sure fire winner for the young (and not so young).”

Read more of these and other reviews

UK Paperback
ISBN-10: 0192738011 • ISBN-13: 978-0192738011


See Inside

Author's Note

In The Clockwork Dragon, Max and Lizzie make their dragon out of recycled arms and armour and the story itself has also been recycled, not once, but twice!

The first version of the story was a pop-up book, called Scraposaurus Wrecks, which I wrote, paper-engineered and illustrated. The Scraposaurus was a dinosaur made from scrap metal and the story ended with it being converted into a school bus after the old bus is wrecked as a result of the dad-driven-dinosaur’s exhibitionist antics. The book was never published, but the idea of driving around inside a huge metal creature was hugely appealing and I hoped to salvage it one day.

Scraposaurus Wrecks, a forerunner of the Clockwork Dragon

A few years later, I was able to do that in a picture book called Tom’s Clockwork Dragon illustrated by Mark Oliver. Like Scraposaurus Wrecks, the story was about a giant reptile made from recycled metal, but this book had a new plot featuring two resourceful children who come up with a clever plan to rid their kingdom of a man-eating dragon.

Unfortunately the book didn’t sell well and went out of print a couple of years after publication. Fortunately Oxford University Press decided to give the story a second chance by publishing a reworked version with a new illustrator. It’s very rare for a story to be recycled in this way and I’m very grateful to OUP editor Peter Marley for giving the clockwork dragon a second chance.

An illustration from the original clockwork dragon book, illustrated by Mark Oliver

As well as being re-illustrated, the story has been redrafted. If you’re familiar with the first version, you might notice that the scene with the king has been cut and a new scene added, where Flamethrottle (the man-eating dragon) wakes up in his cave. Another conspicuous change is that Tom, the young toymaker, has been renamed Max.

Although I’m very fond of Mark Oliver’s illustrations for the original book, it made sense to find an illustrator with a distinctly different style for the new version. We considered several illustrators before settling on Elys Dolan, whose first picture book, the wonderful Weasels, had recently been published. Elys has put a fresh new spin on the story and her illustrations are filled with the quirky characters and engaging comical details that she excels at.

Although it’s not alive, I think the most important character in the book is the clockwork dragon. Elys’s dragon reminds me of Leonardo Da Vinci’s invention drawings and I love that you can see the individual pieces of arms and armour from which it has been made.

If the town and castle in Elys’s illustrations look familiar, that might be because they were inspired by her visit to Neuschwanstein, the home of Baron Bomburst in the film of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Elys didn’t know this when she first drew the roughs, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of my all-time favourite films and has been a big influence on many of my stories, including The Clockwork Dragon, so I love this reference.

Elys's illustrations of Castle Crackpot were inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle

I’m delighted with this new version of the story and I’m hoping that Elys and I will get to work on a second Max and Lizzie adventure. We already have a story in mind and if you study the last spread of the book (shown below) you might spot a clue to what it’s about.


Illustrator Elys Dolan brings Emmett’s imaginative, exciting and funny story to life with colourful, appealing artwork which maps out Max’s world inside the front and back covers and turns the clockwork dragon into a dynamic, larger-than-life creation. This gorgeous book is filled with action, small detail and fun concepts which will provide plenty of talking points for parents and children. And who can resist a story that puts kids in the driving seat, in this case literally? Destined to be a roaring success…

It’s unlikely that Jonathan Emmett had the skills gap in mind when he came up with the idea for this whimsical romp about an experimental young toymaker who defeats a fiery dragon through his passion for motors, gears and cogs; but it’s a pretty good advertisement for the advantages of being an engineer nonetheless. … It’s an exciting read, beautifully illustrated and besides, as we are so often told, it’s never too early to start nurturing an enthusiasm in the next generation for STEM subjects and the exciting career opportunities to which they can open doors…

The cocktail of dastardly dragons, mechanical and otherwise, wily and determined child characters and a rip roaring adventure combined with exciting illustrations packed with humorous details and mechanical ones, make this a sure fire winner for the young (and not so young). Certainly my child audiences demanded an immediate re-reading, pored over the inside covers as well as the action-packed colour spreads and were eager to know if the ‘A Max and Lizzie Adventure sign on the back cover heralds further adventures.
Jill Bennett,  RED READING HUB

Jonathan Emmett enjoys inventing stories involving building and creating. Children love that too. Max has lost his job with the Toymaker and decides to take the only job on offer: ‘Brave Knight wanted to get rid of Flamethrottle the local fearsome dragon’. Max’s useful knowledge for making toys helps him and Lizzie to create an enormous metal clockwork dragon (recycled, of course) to frighten Flamethrottle. Although the trick originally worked, the motor ran down and stopped. But Max is never beaten Local classes of six/seven-year-olds loved the mechanical bits, Max’s trick, and the comeuppance ending.

A rollicking and thoroughly entertaining story with pint-sized heroes at its heart, taking on a big bully by using their brains. We love the inventiveness of this, coupling Jonathan’s pacey and exciting story with Elys Dolan’s wonderful creative illustrations … Brilliantly entertaining!