A well-illustrated dragon tale that may help bridge the gap between young and old readers.

NICKERBACHER

THE FUNNIEST DRAGON

In Barto (Gollywood, Here I Come!, 2014) and Sponaugle’s children’s picture book, a young dragon slays his captive princess, her prince and finally his own disapproving father—with laughter.

Young readers will identify with the sad-eyed main character from the start—a dragon named Nickerbacher who’s guarding an imprisoned princess “because his papa told him to.” As he does so, however, he practices his jokes on her, as he yearns to be a stand-up comedian. Most of them involve clever wordplay: “Why did it take me forever to cross the road?…Because I’m always a-draggin.” Just as Gwendolyn tells him that he must pursue what gives him pleasure, the authors show woodland animals fleeing in terror as Papa Dragon approaches. The young dragon tells his father about his dream and is sternly reminded of his dragonly duty. That afternoon, Prince Happenstance arrives to rescue the princess and repeatedly challenges Nickerbacher to fight after the dragon calls him “Prince Fancypants.” Instead, Nickerbacher torches some nearby trees. Soon, Happenstance admits his squelched desire to be a baseball player, and the opponents realize their common ground. Later, in the city, Nickerbacher finds the courage to step onstage for his first comedy act. It will be hard for readers not to laugh along as they see the audience’s delighted, upturned faces. Later, after receiving his father’s approval, the dragon tells one last joke: “You know what happened to the dragon whose dream came true? He lived happily ever after.” The text of this book is full of body language and voice cues and, as a result, often begs to be read aloud, such as when the princess tells Nickerbacher, “You’d make a great comedian.” “Nickerbacher looked over his shoulder. ‘Don’t let my papa hear that.’ ” The book’s expressive, jewel-toned illustrations also pack an emotional punch. Overall, this dramatic story about a dragon stand-up comedian will likely entertain readers of all ages.

A well-illustrated dragon tale that may help bridge the gap between young and old readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4969-5454-1

Page Count: 34

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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