An illustrated picture book challenges readers’ notions of what real dragons are like—and tells them how to act when they meet the creatures in person.
After a set of lovely endpapers that look like embossed leather on a Renaissance tome, this volume opens with a faux cover inside, giving readers the sense that they are seeing a story within a story. The helpful introductory text by Budayr (A Year in the Secret Garden, 2014, etc.), presented next to a village-burning dragon straight out of a medieval bestiary, sets the tone for the tale: “I bet you think you know the TRUTH about REAL DRAGONS,” the book wagers, while scrawled in big green letters across the page, readers are assured, “You don’t!” The beasts aren’t village burners, gold hoarders, or princess eaters. Then, as readers turn the page, the faux storybook packaging disappears and the gorgeously rendered creatures soar to life, showing a hot dog–roasting dragon using his fire for the good of woodland creatures and a cheerful cohort flapping his wings frantically to keep up with a flock of storks (“Real dragons can fly but not very high”). Dragons turn out to be poetry aficionados who have memorized such vast quantities of rhymes that they’re likely to put their audience (here a host of enchanted creatures and characters, including unicorns, griffins, gnomes, elves, wizards, and a tiny hot dog–eating dragon from a previous illustration) to sleep. Instead of hoarding gold, dragons stockpile books, though they’d be happy to share their reading time with a friend. Dragons love to dance (and a crowd of children from different ethnicities joins in—some pulled right off the ground). In this impressive tale, the beasts are ticklish, disguise artists, have a wicked sweet tooth (“They can smell something sweet and sugary from hundreds of feet away”), adore riddles, and are ready to be anyone’s friend. With such striking and humorous pictures by veteran artist Welply (The Random House Book of Bible Stories, 2015, etc.), reminiscent of Mark Teague’s lighthearted dinosaurs, the book delivers friendly, fantastical dragons that should surely charm children. Budayr’s evocative vocabulary may prove difficult for beginning readers (“snort, kajort, and galumph”; “whirring, churning, scheming”), but lap readers should love the percussive sounds, and independent readers may enjoy the demanding word choice.
An imaginative, smile-inducing, beautifully designed introduction to a favorite magical beast.