Debut author/illustrator Harmony, an Australian psychiatrist, offers children a way to identify their anger and lessons on how to control it in this rhyming, series-opening picture book.
Young Al has a dragon in his pocket. When the boy gets angry, he says, Kanga, the dragon, “breathes fire into my head and belly”—a wonderful way to describe how fuzzy one’s thinking can get and how uncomfortable one’s stomach can feel when anger takes over. When people don’t listen to Al, he stomps and screams. When his brother steals his candy or his sister cheats at a game, he blows up, and when his parents tell him “no” or he keeps making the same mistake on his homework, Kanga rears his (actually quite cute) head. After his sister breaks down in tears and his parents yell at him because of his anger, however, he feels contrite: “I forget what it’s like for those close by / When I explode, and feel my brain will fry.” He apologizes and decides to make a change, pledging to always count to 10 before he reacts in anger. Once Al gets control of his dragon, the book concludes with coloring and drawing pages and a word search for young, independent readers as well as notes for parents that offer concise steps to help kids deal with anger: “Leave,” “Breathe,” and “Speak.” Overall, the concepts and the visualization of the dragon, are excellent and will appeal to readers who have trouble coping with emotional challenges. The illustrations are simplistic, and characters’ proportions are more free-form than lifelike, but the book’s seek-and-find aspect, which encourages children to locate Kanga on each page, will delight readers on the younger end of its target audience. However, the rhyme scheme, though consistent, never achieves an easy flow: “Meet my pet dragon, Kanga, he lives in my pocket. / He sticks out his head when I’m angry as a rocket.” Other parts of the text are spot-on, though; for example, Al compares his homework frustrations to “sinking in a lake,” because, despite his hard work, he never seems to progress.
Thought-provoking questions, fun activities, and insightful imagery mark this book as one that may be particularly useful in schools.