Is there or isn’t there a dragon in the closet?
In his debut as a picture-book illustrator, fine artist Palmer depicts a young black boy with a crown of dreadlocks atop his head and a big imagination. He’s convinced that a dragon in his closet is responsible for various happenings (leaving a dollar bill under his pillow when he loses a tooth, tidying his room while he’s out) and also for the mischief he’s blamed for (tracking mud in the house, breaking a flower pot, eating all the cookies in the jar). He tells his parents about the dragon at the beginning of the book, but after the cookie incident, his exasperated mother leads him to his closet—where they find a dragon-shaped pile of stuff. The boy steadfastly holds onto his story of a real dragon, deciding the heap of things is just a clever ruse. Ultimately, however, the story is confusing: is the child using this story to get away with mischief? Is he truly innocent of any mischief-making and ignorant of his parents’ tooth fairy and tidying duties? More problematic is Taylor’s forced, uneven attempt at rhyming verse, which undermines the book’s success as a whole despite its painterly illustrations and the appeal of a story about a contemporary black family.
A miss. (Picture book. 3-5)