A title with appeal for readers interested in dragons, this picture book doesn’t quite live up to other offerings with...


The high-interest topic of this picture book about “the last dragon” fails to realize its full potential.

Ultimon is the name of the titular last dragon, and he lives a pitiful existence in the sewers and subway tunnels of a contemporary city. Dreaming of the glory days of the past when other dragons “Ruled the waves / And breathed hot flames / In jewel-filled caves,” Ultimon mourns his solitary, pathetic life. Trite phrasing delivered in rhyme describes his plight as he laments, “And I am left / With thoughts that pass / Like grains of sand / In an hourglass.” Hoisting himself up and out of a manhole, he begs for pity and hears a voice calling to him from the heavens. He follows the cry, flying up to the stars and taking his place amid the constellations. Closing text asks readers to find “Draco, / The dragon star,” with accompanying art highlighting one bright yellow star in the sky. The afterword directs attention to the constellation Draco, which, unfortunately, is not easily discerned in the aforementioned closing art of the book proper with its yellow star. The illustrations throughout the picture book, however, do much to elevate the story as a whole, with lush, full-bleed acrylic paintings that will delight dragon aficionados.

A title with appeal for readers interested in dragons, this picture book doesn’t quite live up to other offerings with similar themes. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25200-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.


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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A friendship story for the young and vicious.


The ultimate showdown gets waylaid by an inconvenient friendship.

What could be cooler than a fire truck going head-to-head with a dragon? From the title, fans of Barton’s Shark vs. Train (illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, 2010) will be prepped for some major fire-and-water action. The three child protagonists certainly anticipate a humdinger of a battle, but unfortunately, antipathy is not on the menu. Turns out, Fire Truck and Dragon are the best of buds. Worse, they won’t even take advantage of their natural gifts. A campout sees them making shadow puppets with flashlights. A barbecue is just a chance for them to show off their “free-range potato salad” and “firehouse beans.” And don’t even bother inviting them to your birthday party, unless you just want them spinning you around before you try for the piñata. When at last the two do face off, what occurs? A staring contest. But readers shouldn’t give up hope. They haven’t seen how they say good night. Barton deftly upsets expectations, both for those familiar with his previous book and newcomers who know what “versus” means. Laughs come equally from the disappointed children in the book as well as readers’ thwarted guesses as to what is going to happen. And McCloskey’s daffy cartoons make a perfect complement to Barton’s high-wired hilarity.

A friendship story for the young and vicious. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-52213-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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