Books About Dragons
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"The Different Dragon"
Written by Jennifer Bryant
Illustrated by Danamarie Hosler
(Two Lives, 2003)

(-)


"The Knight And The Dragon"
Written by Tomie DePaola
Illustrated by Tomie DePaola
(G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1998)

An earnest, if predictable, fable of a knight and a dragon who are both poorly suited for the inevitable confrontation they have trained for... The knight is a total klutz when it comes to fighting, and the dragon is better at toasting marshmallows than torching villages. They both try their best, but when the big showdown finally comes, they decide they're better at cooperating than they are at conflict. They open a hamburger stand together, and the knight gets the fair maiden anyway, just for being himself and being a nice guy. I wasn't wowed by this one, but it's a nice enough message about nonviolence and not conforming to social pressures. Worth checking out. (B-)


"Serious Trouble"
Written by Arthur Howard
Illustrated by Arthur Howard
(Harcourt, 2003)

This one was an instant favorite in our household... Admittedly, we've been on a princess-and-castles kick, so a fable about a little boy who doesn't want to be a king when he grows up -- but would rather be a jester -- struck the right chord. The story opens with King Olaf and Queen Olive, two verrrrry serious monarchs who want their son to be just as stern and grave as they are when he grows up, and are flabbergasted when little Earnest tells them he'd rather grow up to be a buffoon. There's no time to talk about it, though, because a terrible three-headed dragon has come banging at the palace gates and it's up to Earnest to chase it off. The dragon, whose three heads have distinct and mutually combative personalities, is a big selling point for this book -- their three-sided conversation with the wily young prince gives adventuresome adult readers a chance to really stretch out and ham it up, and the story itself his a nice comedic stride from start to finish. Cute, fun, amusing. Recommended. (A)


"There's NO Such Thing As A Dragon"
Written by Jack Kent
Illustrated by Jack Kent
(Golden Books, 1975)

A cute book about a young boy who wakes up with a little dragon at the foot of his bed... His mom tells him there's no such thing as dragons, so he dutifully ignores the little lizard at breakfast, even though the dragon keep eating al his pancakes and starts to grow ever larger. Eventually the mild-mannered dragon grows so large he fills the entire house and even Mom has to admit there are such things as dragons. Seems he big, scaly fellow just wanted attention: once Billy pats him on the head, the dragon starts to shrink and become a more manageable pet. It's a funny, simple, engaging story, with cartoonish, Syd Hoff-ian artwork... I wish I had a dragon like that! (A)


"The Knight Who Took All Day"
Written by James Mayhew
Illustrated by James Mayhew
(Scholastic/Chicken House, 2005)

A gleefully cartoonish book that takes the knight-in-shining-armor paradigm and playfully turns it on its head. Here, the knight in question is a puffed-up, macho blowhard, who longs for the chance to trounce a big, bad dragon so that he can win the heart of the fair princess. When the chance finally arises, he takes so long preening himself getting ready -- he's got to look right before he can go out to best the beast -- that the princess takes matters into her own hands and dons armor herself, and tames the dragon rather that kill it. Afterwards, she ditches the knight and elopes with his mild-mannered squire. This book is a delight on so many levels -- the text is very tongue-in-cheek and sly, and is easily matched by the artwork, which has plenty of amusing details, including the steadfast preparations of the princess, who calmly marshals herself while the knight vainly dithers about in his tower. Plus, it's a great tomboy saga, and it's pro-dragon, too, which is a nice change of pace. This is a fun, funny book... recommended! (A)


"The Little Girl And The Dragon"
Written by Else Homelund Minarik
Illustrated by Martine Gourbault
(Greenwillow, 1991)

A cute, simple story about a strong-willed, confident little girl who has a little problem with a dragon coming out of one of her fantasy books and eating all her favorite toys. Rather than cry or recoil, she insists that the dragon give all her stuff back, and faces the mighty fire-breather down... And once he goes back into the book from whence he came (a copy, by the way, of Else Homelund Minarik's The Little Girl And The Dragon...) she ties the book shut and stuffs it under the leg of her bed. It's not a very complex story, but it's a satisfying book, particularly the artwork, which has a modern flair, but makes both monster and maiden seem quite likable. Worth checking out. (B)


"Angry Dragon"
Written by Thierry Robberecht
Illustrated by Philippe Goossens
(Clarion, 2004)

(-)


"Dragons: A Pop-Up Book of Fantastic Adventures"
Written by Keith Moseley
Illustrated by M.P. Robertson
(Abrams, 2006)

This book is not ideal for most little, little kids -- too scary -- but for folks in a slightly older age group, but the fantasy-oriented D&D types among us will revel in this boldly illustrated pop-up book... The dragons literally leap out at you, all tooth, claw and leathery, scaly skin. There are abbreviated versions of several famous dragon stories -- St. George, Maud & The Wyvern, The Sea King's Daughter, Beowulf, etc. -- and flashy artwork to match. The pop-up elements are relatively simple, which also means they are more durable than some of the more clever, complicated other books. If you're a dragon fan, you'll dig this book... a lot! (-)


"No Dragons For Tea: Fire Safety For Kids (And Dragons)"
Written by Jean Pendziwol
Illustrated by Martine Gourbault
(Kids Can Press, 1998)

(-)


"A Treasure At Sea For Dragon And Me: Water Safety For Kids (And Dragons)"
Written by Jean Pendziwol
Illustrated by Martine Gourbault
(Kids Can Press, 2005)

(-)


"Once Upon A Dragon: Stranger Safety For Kids (And Dragons)"
Written by Jean Pendziwol
Illustrated by Martine Gourbault
(Kids Can Press, 2006)

(-)


"The Tale Of Sir Dragon: Dealing With Bullies For Kids (And Dragons)"
Written by Jean Pendziwol
Illustrated by Martine Gourbault
(Kids Can Press, 2007)

(-)


"The Minstrel And The Dragon Pup"
Written by Rosemary Sutcliff
Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
(Candlewick, 1993)

(-)


"The Loathsome Dragon"
Written by David Wiesner & Kim Kahng
Illustrated by David Wiesner
(Clarion, 1987/2005)

A beautifully illustrated book (from the guy who did Tuesday, Flotsam, and June 29, 1999, providing a slight twist on standard fairytale lore... A prince goes on a quest to defeat a hideous dragon, although it turns out the dragon is actually a nice princess who's had a nasty spell cast on her; the magic bounces back on her wicked step-mother, who gets turned into a loathsome toad as punishment. The typical one-woman-or-another-must-be-punished paradigm is kind of old-fashioned, but dragon fans (and Ren Fair types) will like this one: the dragon looks cool, and the ornate, highly detailed drawings are pretty cool. (B)


"Puff, The Magic Dragon"
Written by Peter Yarrow & Lenny Lipton
Illustrated by Eric Puybaret
(Sterling, 2007)

A cheery adaptation of Peter, Paul & Mary's 1960s folk-pop classic, "Puff The Magic Dragon," a hit single that became a staple of campfire singalongs and nursery school circle times all around the world. Personally, I'm not wild about the artwork -- it's large and bold, but tends to spill over into the edges of the pages, rather than provide a strong, immediate focal point for the eyes to latch onto -- but the book is still a delight, and will capture the imagination of little readers who are new to the story of Jackie Paper, as well as the many (grand)parents who will pick this up, in part as a trip down memory lane. Peter Yarrow and his family also provide a four-song CD-EP that has a revamped new recording of "Puff," an additional instrumental (karaoke?) version and two other kiddie-folk tunes, "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" and "Blue Tail Fly." In a pair of brief, chatty endnotes, Yarrow and co-author Lenny Lipton cheerfully bat aside the persistent rumors that are attached to this song, asserting for the bazillionth time that it was not written about the town of Hanalei, Hawaii (which I believe) and that it is not a coded reference to drug use (which I'm a little more skeptical about... I mean, c'mon, it was the Sixties, man!) Regardless of which urban myths you choose to believe, this is a lovely, enchanting story, and so deeply ingrained in American popular culture, it pretty much has the status of fairy tale or myth. Nice to have it at our fingertips, at last! (B)




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