It doesn’t matter whether or not they can be seen; there’s a little bit of dragon inside each of us. Here’s to dragon-taming.

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WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN

In this companion to When a Dragon Moves In (2011), it turns out that castles of any sort, not just sand, attract dragons, so the soon-to-be-born baby’s crib, with its crenellations and turrets at the corners, has an occupant even before mom gives birth.

The dragon and the boy start off doing their best to entertain the new baby, but their efforts are not always appreciated. The baby’s bottles are not toys, and no matter how it makes the baby giggle, mom and dad just don’t appreciate their son playing airplane in the house—and they’re not buying the boy’s explanation that the overturned plant is the dragon’s work, not his. The last straw is his father’s declaration that “we’ve had enough of this dragon business.” Well, the boy’s “had enough of this baby business!” Will the baby get sent back as the boy demands of his parents, or will the boy decide that maybe the baby’s not so bad after all? As in the previous title, the big question here is whether or not the dragon is imaginary. Regardless, the dragon is definitely the boy’s release—his way of engaging in naughty behavior and then blaming it on the dragon—when it’s tough to accept the new changes around the house that come with a baby. McWilliam’s pencil and digitally painted illustrations are wonderfully raucous and tongue-in-cheek, and his facial expressions are spot-on.

It doesn’t matter whether or not they can be seen; there’s a little bit of dragon inside each of us. Here’s to dragon-taming. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-9362613-5-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flashlight Press

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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