Started by Donita K. Paul in 2004 to celebrate the release of Dragon Spell, Appreciate a Dragon Day is today, January 16th. In honor of the day, here are some picture books you can share.
Title: The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water
Author/Illustrator: Gemma Merino
Publisher/Date: Macmillan Children’s Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers LTD, c2013.
An unnamed crocodile sees all his crocodile siblings enjoying swimming, diving, and going underwater, but he doesn’t like it. He realizes why one day when a sneeze reveals what he could be good at instead. Debut author/illustrator Gemma Merino adds hints throughout the primarily blue, green, and red pictures that this crocodile is different, from the eggs being carried on the end pages to his shoes, his coloring, and finally the little nubs exposed on his back. A simple story that lets children know it’s okay to not be good at something, because they’ll inevitably be good at something else.
Dragon isn’t afraid of anything, and roars to prove it. But what’s that sound? That couldn’t have been him. Oh no, something else is roaring in the forest! He seeks comfort from the unknown among his forest friends, and they work together to chase it away. Kids will laugh at the dragon’s antics, being clued in by the expressive, in-the-know yellow bird that dragon is being silly. Their dynamics with each other remind me of rational Elephant and overly-excitable Piggie by Mo Willems. Add this to a dramatic read-aloud and be prepared for kids to join in on the roaring.
Title: Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg
Author/Illustrator: Debi Gliori
Publisher/Date: first published as Dragon Loves Penguin in Great Britain in 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Published in the United States of America in October 2014 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, c2013.
Through a relatively unnecessary piece of meta-fiction, Bib asks for a bedtime story from his parents and they read the book you are reading to him. Dragons come to a land of ice and snow, wait for spring, and proceed to lay their eggs. All except one dragon, who luckily discovers an abandoned egg to care for and that hatches a penguin. While the other baby dragons tease the penguin, it’s the penguin who comes to their rescue at the end. There really isn’t any rising action or suspense, and no comeuppance for the teasing dragons during the anti-climatic ending. This book does have a place where lesson books are necessary, peppered with platitudes like “Sometimes things happen for a reason” and “Little One was given love and time, the greatest gift of all.”
Title: Waking Dragons
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Derek Anderson
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2012.
An unnamed knight, followed by his equally fearless pooch, is reminded by his mother’s note to wake the dragons before school. This is a big task for such a little guy, especially since there are two dragons to not just wake up but get dressed, fed, and prepared for the day. While it seems questionable that the dragons would wear pajamas but not wear clothes during the day, Anderson’s details are adorable, including bed posts shaped like castle towers, a ladder for the tiny knight to ascend to the dragons’ bed, and a fire extinguisher at the ready during teeth brushing “in case of dragon breath”. The rhymes are simplistic, although the division of verses across multiple pages (sometimes just two words on a page) necessitates pre-reading before sharing aloud in a group. Good for a dragon themed story time where you’re looking for a shorter, less complex story.
An underwhelming story, Hedgehog and Rabbit stumble upon a dragon’s egg and take the resulting dragon home with them. When the dragon’s growth means he gets stuck in the house, the house gets destroyed in the process of getting him out, and Hedgehog, Rabbit, and Dragon move on to build him a new one. There is nothing to distinguish the characters from one another. The spreads with lots of white space just look like they are missing their background, and twice she resorts to double page spreads of flying objects, with the equivalent of old comic book words superimposed (BANG! BAM! BOOOOOOM!). Details would have helped draw in dragon fans.
Pastel colors yield a soothing feel to what you think is going to be a dragon hunt. But the reason the child is hunting dragons is to hug them, feed them hot chocolate, and tuck them in under warm blankets. Proving that nothing is as fierce as it seems, the bird’s eye view of the four dragons cuddled close to woodland creatures is a delight to see. Suggested as a wind-down from a busy day spent dragon taming.
This book defies explanation. Cedric the dragon presents his mother with a bedtime story book, then implores her to read it again and again and again. His mother obliges and gets more and more frustrated, seemingly altering the story to fit her mood and circumstances until… well the book ends in a completed unexpected and unexplained way. There seems to be an aspect of meta-fiction, but I’m uncertain how much that applies to the whole book. This one has me scratching my head, between the ending and the colors and the narration. Maybe I’m just not the right audience.
Let’s end this list on a high note. What personality! Martin is a dragon who dreams of flying but his wings are too small. His antics while attempting to get off the crowd are humorously and colorfully portrayed. The one page that gave me pause is when I don’t think it’s indicated as well as it could have been that Martin went down the hill instead of over the ledge, but it’s a small quibble. Martin’s body reminds me of an obese kangaroo with wings and a tail, and those wings by the end of the book are beautiful, subtly showcasing the transformation that Martin undergoes. The expressions convey so much feeling with just a tilt of a head and floppy ears, and his child helpers accept the presence of a dragon without question. This is a CUTE book, and everyone should become acquainted with this dear dragon.
Am I missing any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.