A boy overcomes spelling-bee anxiety by imagining the misadventures of his stuffed dragon in this debut picture book from sisters Heinrichs and Grall.
Jimmy, a blond, pale-skinned boy, often has silly dreams of animal adventures, as depicted in Grall’s opening, brightly colored cut-paper illustration. But the night before a spelling bee, his dreams turn to nightmares. He wakes up and confesses to Fire Breath, his stuffed dragon, that he’s forgotten all his spelling-bee words. But he comes up with a plan: “What if he stayed home and sent Fire Breath in his place?” As Jimmy imagines the resulting antics—which culminate in the fire-breathing dragon burning down the auditorium—the boy realizes that it would be unfair to send an unprepared dragon to a spelling bee. Also, he now remembers all the words he’d memorized. Over the course of the story, a large ape in a picture above Jimmy’s bed offers easy-to-read commentary. Indeed, author Heinrichs uses accessible vocabulary throughout the book, and the illustrations effectively move the story forward on pages with little or no text. Grall’s beautiful paper creations vividly reveal Jimmy’s inner thoughts, and the silly conceit allows the creators to effectively show how creativity can help one cope with stress.
Young readers will sympathize with the anxious protagonist and giggle at the dragon’s well-illustrated adventures.