An imaginative, smile-inducing, beautifully designed introduction to a favorite magical beast.

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Dragons Are Real

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.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-936426-20-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Audrey Press

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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