September 1 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

The beginning of a new school year is a terrific time to celebrate Read a New Book Month. Whether the books are recently published or just new to you, there are stories and nonfiction books to fit any subject, to inspire learning, to laugh or cry with, and to share with friends. This month visit your local bookstore and library and stock up on books for everyone in the family! 

Dylan’s Dragon

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse

 

When Dylan was little, he liked to while away his days “playing, doodling, drawing, daydreaming.” He drew spaceships and race cars, dragons and robots. But as he got older, Dylan found there were many more things to do, like karate, baseball, gymnastics, and swimming. And of course there was lots of homework. There wasn’t a moment when Dylan wasn’t doing something. Then one day Dragon showed up at his door wanting to play. But Dylan was just on his way to school. All day long Dylan thought about Dragon. He seemed vaguely familiar, but Dylan couldn’t remember. Dylan planned on playing with Dragon after school, and when he got home they did fly a few circles around the yard, but then it was time for his piano lesson. 

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, after he gave Dylan a ride to the kitchen, Dylan asked if Dragon would like to play after school. “Dragon stuck out his tongue and slurped oatmeal off Dylan’s cheek, which felt kind of slimy but seemed like a yes.” But they only had a few short minutes before Dylan had to study and then go to science club. Dylan thought Dragon might be able to help with his homework, but Dragon’s flames singed his test review papers.

On the rest of the days that week, Dylan tried to include Dragon, but it just didn’t work out. Finally, the weekend came and Dylan thought they would be able to play then. Dragon “swatted Dylan with his tail, which felt cold and scaly but had to mean yes.” Saturday morning, Dylan jumped out of bed ready to play with Dragon, but his parents reminded him of his baseball game, piano recital, and Aunt Edith’s 90th birthday party. But “when do I get to play?” Dylan asked.

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When Sunday morning rolled around, Dylan woke up and asked his mom, “‘What do we have to do now?'” Surprisingly, Dylan had nothing planned. “‘Just go out and play,'” his mom told him. Dylan cheered and called for Dragon, but he didn’t come. In fact, he was nowhere to be found. “It seemed like Dragon was draGONE.” Dylan looked everywhere, but no dragon. Dylan began to cry. 

When his mom asked him what was wrong, Dylan told her about Dragon and wanting to play and never having enough time. “‘Sounds like we need to cut back,'” his mom said. Then she told him she’d help look for Dragon. As Dylan was drawing a picture of Dragon to show his mom, when he remembered where he’d seen Dragon before – in his old drawings from when he was little.

As he carried his drawing downstairs to show his mom, it began to steam. “It smoked… then POOF popped Dragon, right into the living room. This time when Dylan asked if he wanted to play, Dragon wrapped a wing around him in a hug that “was most definitely a yes!”

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Image copyright Ben Whitehouse, 2021, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Annie Silvestro’s creative storytelling is both whimsical and realistic as she reminds readers about the importance of balance between activities, school, and free time in children’s schedules. When the dragon, a favorite drawing from Dylan’s preschool or kindergarten days, appears to rescue him and his harried family, many kids (and adults) may identify with Dylan’s desire for a more relaxed lifestyle. Silvestro’s dialogue rings true as Dylan’s parents call him from snatched moments of play and Dylan pleads for just ten more minutes. Dylan’s mom’s recognition of the need to cut back on some of her son’s activities sets a good example, and Silvestro’s message that imagination and creativity make beneficial playmates is reassuring.

Ben Whitehouse’s vivid illustrations cleverly depict the dichotomy between Dylan’s desire for playtime and his over-scheduled routine as images of Dylan riding and playing with his Dragon are juxtaposed with his mom and dad indicating that it’s time to go to one activity after another. Well-marked calendars, a tablet, watches and clocks, lots of sticky note reminders, and equipment for various extracurricular activities at the ready crowd the family’s home – fitting images for the dizzying swirl of appointments that must also crowd Dylan and his parents’ minds. While Dylan’s room is decorated with his many interests, Whitehouse shows that it is his long-lost love of drawing and imagination that truly makes him happy.

A clever and engaging story about recapturing the simple pleasures of free time and playtime, Dylan’s Dragon can also spark conversations between adults and kids about how much is too much and finding that happy medium. A perfect book to share at home, especially as the new school year begins, Dylan’s Dragon would be an excellent addition to home bookshelves as well as school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807517420

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ben Whitehouse, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-darling-dragon-match-puzzle

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dylan's-dragon-cover

You can find Dylan’s Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 7 – Celebrating Our First Middle Grade Monday

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to welcome back Jakki Licare, who took time away from the blog to help her boys with virtual schooling. Jakki and I are also excited to tell you that on the first Monday of every month, Celebrate Picture Books will become Celebrate Middle Grade Books, with Jakki’s reviews of fantastic books for older kids. What does she have up first? A book that has it all – dragons, suspense, magic, and a new team of smart, brave, kind, and funny friends for readers to take adventures with. 

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of Dragon Mountain for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Review by Jakki Licare

Dragon Mountain 

By Katie and Kevin Tsang 

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Billy Chan is dreading summer because his parents have shipped him off from his home in San Francisco to attend a summer camp in China so he can brush up on his Mandarin and “‘learn more about his Chinese heritage.'” But when he is paired with Dylan O’Donnell, Charlotte Bell, and Liu Ling-Fei for a scavenger hunt things start to look up. Determined to win, the kids take a shortcut – which they instantly regret when a tiger chases them. Unable to get away, the kids link hands and face off against the tiger together in front of a mountain. Incredibly, the tiger backs away and vanishes into thin air.

When they return back to camp, Ling-Fei realizes that she’s lost the necklace her grandmother gave her. The next morning the kids go back to search for Ling-Fei’s missing necklace. As they search the area, Billy realizes that they’ve lost something else – Ling-Fei! One by one the kids go missing, until Billy is all alone. Billy is convinced that something is pulling them into the mountain and he marches in to find his friends.

Deep within the mountain, he finds his friends trapped by a group of dragons. The dragons are glad that the children came because they’ve been waiting for the prophesized four to open it. The dragons explain that the mountain contains a special portal that connects the human and dragon realms together. These dragons are the portal guardians. An evil dragon, known as the Dragon of Death, tried to come through the portal thousands of years ago to maximize its powers by bonding with a human. The guardians fought to keep the Dragon of Death out, but they were unable to defeat the Dragon of Death so they sent her through a time portal. As they sent her back, she cast a spell that sealed the guardians in the mountain until they met their human matches. 

One of the dragons has the ability to see into the future, and she has seen the Dragon of Death coming back and enslaving the human realm. The kids want to protect their world and agree to bond with the dragons. The kids bond with their dragons by naming them. Once they’re bonded, the dragons are stronger in ability as well as size. Three of the dragons have magical pearls that will give the kids super powers: Charlotte receives super strength, Ling-Fei can sense nature, and Dylan has the power of persuasion. Billy’s dragon doesn’t have a pearl, but they know the fourth pearl is close. Billy realizes he has seen it at the summer camp. 

The kids head back to camp and break into the owner’s office that night. Billy finds the pearl on top of a bookshelf. When he grabs it, he loses his balance and does a perfect backwards flip. Billy now has agility superpowers. Now that they have the pearls and are bonded, the children are ready for the dragon realm. But the dragons find the entrance is still barred to them by the curse. The kids have to go through on their own to open the entrance for the dragons. The tiger that chased them earlier is waiting for them and is the keeper of the curse. The tiger attacks them with electric bolts and Billy distracts it. Using her powers, Ling-Fei learns that they must destroy the tiger’s heart. Charlotte uses her super strength and rips the tiger’s heart out.  

Now they can enter the Dragon Realm with their dragons, but they find that the entire dragon Realm is poisoned. The dragons then have to fight off the the Dragon of Death’s helpers, Noxwings, and soon the dragons are captured. With the help of Billy’s dragon, though, the kids are able to get away. The kids travel through the dragon realm on their own and have many adventures in which they must use their powers and wit to help them survive this dangerous land.

They finally reach the Nowxing’s camp and find hundreds of cages filled with captured dragons. The Noxwings are opening a portal to bring back the Dragon of Death by draining the dragons of their energy. The kids learn that if they destroy the floating flames that surround the portal, the cages will open and the portal will close. The kids work together and destroy the flames, but Billy is attacked. He’s about to be killed when his dragon swoops in and saves him.

They’re winning the battle and the portal is almost closed when the summer camp’s owner appears out of the forest. He grabs Dylan and heads toward the portal. He created the whole summer camp just to find the children he needed to open the dragon realm. The owner is determined to bring back the Dragon of Death. He jumps through, pulling Dylan with him. The kids are determined to get their friend back and all the freed dragons swear to help them. The kids and their dragons will travel through time to save Dylan and defeat the Dragon of Death.

Review

 

This fast-paced book will be sure to keep your middle grader’s attention. The writing is very immersive and you’re soon off on one adventure after another. Perfect for 8-12 year olds who love dragons and are looking for fun characters that you can’t help rooting for. Katie and Kevin Tsang’s dragons were inspired by both Chinese and European folklore and they even blended two of the dragons to create hybrids of both cultures. They also drew inspiration from the Chinese symbols of the Eight Great Treasures to create the eight pearls in Dragon Mountain which give the kids their superpowers. 

My favorite part of this book was how the characters work through their problems together. All of the characters are incredibly different and often their personalities clash, but they’re able to talk through their troubles together. After the children are separated from their dragons in the Dragon Realm, Charlotte is angry with Billy for running away. The group falls apart as they can’t agree on what to do. But after talking it through they’re able to come up with the beginnings of a plan that they can all agree with. This is one example of how the Tsangs do an amazing job of focusing on the intricacies of team work and thread it through the plot of the story. 

Billy Chan, the main character, is a surfing champ who is also good at keeping his head in stressful situations. Dylan O’Donnell is friendly, funny, and very cautious. Charlotte Bell is competitive, motivated, and smart. And Liu Ling-Fei is sweet, quiet, and generous. When the dragons are introduced, we learn that each child is destined to bond with a dragon. My kids and I loved guessing who was going to be matched with who. Some of the bonds were surprising.

My seven year old especially loved the dragons in this book. They start off as menacing and scary but, just like Billy and his friends, we soon learn to trust them. Each dragon’s personality is as unique as those of the kids, and they each carry their own powers that we learn about along the way.  I’m looking forward to the second book so we can spend more time with the dragons!

There are two distinct story worlds. The first part of the story takes place in a Chinese mountain. We get a very brief introduction to the summer camp before we are swept into the mountain. The other half of the book is spent in the dragon realm which is full of floating islands and has three moons and a mysterious red dome. The dragon realm’s barren world accurately reflects the danger the kids are in and increases the reader’s anxiety. As the kids try to maneuver through this foreign terrain, they come across many new and unexpected dangers. My son’s favorite part is when the kids have to bargain with a rock troll.

Dragon Mountain is a fast-paced, immersive adventure book that’s perfect for dragon lovers of all ages especially fans of How to Train Your Dragon and will make a great addition to class libraries as well personal libraries.

Parental Considerations: This book does contain fantasy fighting.

Ages 8 – 12

Grade Level 3 – 7 | AR Level: 4.8

Sterling Children’s Books 2020 | ISBN 978-1454935964

You can learn more about Katie & Kevin Tsang, their Dragon Realm series, and their Sam Wu Is Not Afraid series on their website.

Adventure into the Dragon Realm with this book trailer!

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You can find Dragon Mountain at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 23 – World Book Day and World Book Night

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About the Holidays

Sponsored by UNESCO, World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day and International Day of the Book, encourages families and individuals to rediscover the joys of reading and promotes the availability of a wide range of books to all and in all languages. April 23 was chosen to celebrate books in honor of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who all died on this date. The holiday offers an opportunity to highlight the power of books and to promote the United Nations’ vision of societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, and open and participatory for all citizens. Each year publishers, booksellers, and libraries choose a World Book Capitol for a one-year period to acknowledge the city’s commitment to promoting books and fostering reading. The World Book Capitol for 2021 is Tbilisi, Georgia. This year’s theme is “Share a Story.” For more information on World Book Day and to find a communication toolkit as well as other resources, visit the UNESCO website and The World Book Day website.

First established in the United Kingdom and Ireland but now a global event, World Book Night is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. While World Book Day focuses on promoting reading for and with children, World Book Night encourages adults to set aside time to read for pleasure as well. Reading for pleasure can have a enormous impact on one’s life, from learning new information to feeling more connected to the world to just relaxing and taking a healthy break from daily responsibilities. World Book Night was also conceived as a way to get more books into more hands, and as such is actively involved in giving away designated books to care homes, youth centers, colleges, prisons, public libraries, mental health groups and other charity partners who match books with new readers to reach those who may not have access to or the resources to buy books. To learn more about this initiative, visit the World Book Night website.

You can get involved too! Why not start today? With so many amazing books to discover, reading daily is a luxury worth indulging. For kids, there may be no cozier routine than snuggling up next to mom or dad or cuddling under the covers and getting lost in a wonderful story before falling asleep. And adults? You never really lose that comforting feeling of ending the day with a good book.

Thanks go to Lerner Books for sharing a copy of Where is the Dragon? for review consideration, all opinions on the book are my own.

Where is the Dragon?

By Leo Timmers

 

The king was having nightmares about a dragon he was sure was on the prowl, so he sent “his knights: One, Two and Three. ‘Save the realm! But mainly me,'” he ordered. The knights bravely went out into the dark forest armed only with…well…their armor and a candle, but they had a problem. It turned out that none of them had every seen a dragon before. But they each had assurances from the king as to how a dragon behaved and what it looked like. Knight Two knew (from the king) that forest animals ran away from a dragon. 

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Just as they came upon a suspicious-looking shape cloaked in the darkness, “Knight One [said], ‘Well, the king confided / their spikes are thick and double-sided.'” The mound in front of them appeared to have a head, a well-spiked body, and a pointy tale. Without trepidation, however, the smallest knight approached and held up his candle to find… a wagon overflowing with carrots and long-eared rabbits taking a snooze.

The three moved on, out of the forest and into an area of lush undergrowth. As they came to a truly frightening silhouette that looked ready to gobble them up, Knight Two alerted his friends that the king had warned him about a dragon’s teeth. While Knight One and Knight Two were fumbling in the dark on their way to slay this dragon, Knight Three stepped forward. “‘Ha ha, ho ho,'” he laughed. Their “dragon” wasn’t scary at all. 

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

In a moment, the knights had gotten themselves into an awful fix when they began crossing a fallen tree that led right to a dragon’s nest. How did they know this was a real dragon? Knight One told them, “‘Well, the king declared / their necks are long, their nostrils flared.'” And, indeed, in front of them awaited the shadow of just such a beast. But as Knight Two took another bumbling trip, the intrepid Knight Three discovered in his dwindling candle’s light a rather peaceful, sleepy scene.

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Farther on another scare in the deep, dark night turned out to be just another snore. By this time the candle was burning low when they happened upon a rocky mound. There were no spikes, no sharp teeth, no neck or even head, and there was absolutely none of that “‘… scalding sizzling smelly breath'” the king had told them about. Knight Two had had enough. “‘Dragons? No such thing,'” he said. “‘Let’s all go home and tell the king.'” But just to make sure, Knight Three held up his sputtering candle. There was nothing there to frighten him, and he decided “‘the dragon’s just in the king’s head.'” But did he really get a good look?

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Copyright Leo Timmers, 2021, courtesy of Gecko Press/Lerner Books.

Leo Timmers puts a medieval spin on “things that go bump in the night” with his laugh-out-loud tale of three knights on a mission to rid the kingdom of a dragon that’s vexing the king. As they set out on a dark, but starry night, the knights have only the descriptions the king has provided to guide them. Accompanying each two-page spread in which the knights encounter ominous silhouettes are Timmers’ short and cunning rhyming couplets that lead the knights – and readers – to conclude that indeed a dragon lies ahead. 

But in the glow of the candle (just as when the bedroom light flips on) the dragon disappears, and in its place is a harmless – and hilarious – bedtime scene. Meanwhile, as Knight Three is uncovering the sleepers of the realm on the righthand page, on the left page bumbling Knight Two is engaged in slapstick trips, falls, and mishaps all to the detriment of Knight One. These increasingly  will keep kids laughing and waiting to see what happens next. Timmons’ pitch-perfect ending will enchant kids and anyone just looking for a good night’s sleep. 

Part Monty Python, part bedtime story, and entirely ingenious, Where is the Dragon? will become a quick favorite for fun, madcap and imagination-filled daytime or nighttime story times at home, in the classroom, and for public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Gecko Press / Lerner Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1776573110

To learn more about Leo Timmers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

World Book Day and World Book Night Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection

 

When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

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You can find Where is the Dragon? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | Indiebound

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Appreciate a Dragon Day

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About the Holiday

Appreciate a Dragon Day was established in 2004 by author Danita K. Paul to celebrate the publication of her novel DragonSpell, the first book in her Dragon Keepers Chronicles series. The holiday now encourages all readers to get involved with reading through fun activities—dragon-themed, of course! Teachers, librarians, and all those who love reading can find lots of suggestions for creative ideas that encompass art, crafts, displays, drama, and many other mediums on Danita K. Paul’s website. So, round up your favorite dragon books and breathe some fire into your reading today!

The Book Dragon

Written by Kell Andrews | Illustrated by Éva Chatelain

 

In Lesser Scrump, reading was a chore. To teach the alphabet, the schoolmaster, Mr. Percival, drew on tree trunks with bits of charcoal, scratched on slate with a rock, or drew in the dirt of the schoolyard. One day, Rosehilda said that “‘reading would be more fun if the letters and words were written as stories.’” She even suggested writing them with ink on papers that could be put together. The students were shocked and “Mr. Percival sent Rosehilda home with a stern note scratched onto a leaf.”

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Rosehilda got home she asked her grandfather what all the fuss was about. He told her about the Book Dragon, who instead of hoarding gold, collected books. Rosehilda had never heard of a book, and her grandfather explained that it was “letters and words written on papers that are attached together.” He pointed out the window to Scrump Mountain and told Rosehilda that the Book Dragon lived deep inside and stole any book brought into the village.  

The next day at school, Rosehilda declared that the school needed books and that she was not afraid of the Book Dragon. Mr. Percival explained that after the dragon snatched a book, she terrorized the villagers the next night, and he sent her home again with another note etched into a candle stub. On the way home, Rosehilda met a peddler who had a book in her pile of wares. She gave it to Rosehilda in exchange for the candle stub.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

That night Rosehilda read a story about a brave knight who defeated a dragon and won its hoard of gold. “For the first time, reading wasn’t tiresome. It was amazing!” In the morning, the book was gone. Rosehilda’s grandfather told her that they and all the villagers would have to lock their windows that night. Rosehilda felt guilty. “She vowed to challenge the dragon and win her book back.”

She went to the top of Scrump Mountain and peered into the dragon’s cave. The Book Dragon was lying atop an immense pile of books. She looked surprised to see Rosehilda standing there. Rosehilda summoned her courage and demanded that the dragon return her book. The Book Dragon apologized and explained that because she was too big to live in the village, books were the only friends she had.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Rosehilda scolded the dragon for stealing so many books. The dragon said she only meant to borrow them, but when she tried to return them, the windows were locked and people screamed when she knocked. The dragon agreed to give Rosehilda her book back, but Rosehilda had a hard time finding it among so many books.

While searching for it, Rosehilda and the Book Dragon began stacking the books “by subject and author.” At the end of the day, they had plenty of piles and more books to sort, and Rosehilda hadn’t found her book. The Book Dragon suggested she borrow a different one. She read late into the night, and the next day she went back to the dragon’s cave to help sort books. She left with another book. This went on all week.

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Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Finally, all the books were sorted and Rosehilda found her book. She was excited that she wouldn’t have to come back, but the Book Dragon looked sad and suggested that she “borrow another book…and come back tomorrow.” That gave Rosehilda an idea. The next day at school, Mr. Percival and the other students were horrified to see the dragon outside their window, but Rosehilda explained that she was just returning their books. Now the Book Dragon oversees the “Official Village Library of Lesser Scrump,” and everyone reads as much as they want!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-dragon-book-found

Image copyright Éva Chatelain, 2018, text copyright Kell Andrews, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kell Andrew’s clever story will delight book lovers of all scales with its mix of fantasy, mystery, courage, and friendship. Fearless Rosehilda is a plucky role model for all kids, and the Book Dragon’s desire for company will melt readers’ hearts faster than a breath of fire. Andrew’s storytelling reflects the best of fairy tale lore for a modern audience, with touches of humor, mistaken motives, and a creative resolution.

Éva Chatelain bridges the medieval and the familiar in her bright illustrations that draw on the rich yellows, reds, and greens of leather-bound books, piles of gold, fiery emotions, and woodland villages. Chatelain introduces brave Rosehilda as she challenges her teacher and buys a book,  but she also reveals the trepidation Rosehilda overcomes to confront the Book Dragon, showing readers that even the most courageous people can feel fear too. As Rosehilda reads her treasured book, kids’ suspense will quicken to see the silhouette of the dragon outside her window. The stacks of books that Rosehilda and the Book Dragon build are cunning references to library stacks, and the final images of a happy town and a happy (dragon) librarian will charm readers.

An enchanting story for book buffs, dragon devotees, and fairy tale fans, The Book Dragon would be a favorite addition to story times and home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926856

Discover more about Kell Andrews and her books on her website.

To learn more about Éva Chatelain, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Appreciate a Dragon Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-darling-dragon-match-puzzle

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

 

In this group of darling dragons, each dragon has a twin. Can you help them find each other in this printable puzzle?

Darling Dragon Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-book-dragon-cover

You can find The Book Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 18 – National Splurge Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted in 1994 by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith, a self-proclaimed “eventologist” who has created more than 1,900 of these quirky holidays we celebrate, as a way to encourage people to spend a little extra and help the economy. While this year splurging monetarily may not be possible, there are lots of other ways to enjoy an extra treat or experience a larger-than-life moment. And if your child’s wishes run to wild, mythical pets, then today is the day to indulge them—with today’s book, of course!

By Jakki Licare

You Don’t Want a Dragon!

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Liz Climo

 

“NOW you’ve done it! I TOLD YOU not to wish for a dragon!” warns the narrator to the little boy who has just wished for a pet dragon at a fountain. The little boy can’t imagine anything better, but the narrator chides him. Doesn’t he remember what happened when he wished for unicorns last time?

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Image copyright Liz Climo, 2020, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2020. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

The unicorn had been destructive and even held a crazy unicorn party. Plus, the unicorn left a lot of smelly cupcake surprises around the house. The narrator continues to warn him, but the boy is having too much fun flying on his dragon. The narrator concedes that it might be fun at first, but cautions him that it won’t be worth it in the end because dragons love to chase things and never stop drooling!

The dragon smiles sneakily next to a lit grill holding a roll of toilet paper while the narrator informs us “and what the stories never mention is . . .WHERE charcoal comes from. Don’t mention this at your next barbecue. Trust me.” The little boy works endlessly to keep the dragon under control and to clean up after it. The narrator tells the boy he’s doing a good job, but he’s in for some big trouble. Dragons grow and grow and grow and  become enormous! 

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Image copyright Liz Climo, 2020, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2020. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

“You just don’t have the space for a dragon. In your heart, yes. But in your house . . . no.” The narrator advises the little boy to go back to the water fountain and wish the dragon away. The boy does as he’s told with a bit of regret. As he’s returning home, he discovers a Pet Adoption Day event going on and finds an adorable hamster. The narrator and the boy both agree that the hamster will be the perfect pet.

The little boy brings his hamster home and places him into a cage. He’s cleaning up the mess left from the dragon and unicorns, when the narrator points out that the lid isn’t on the cage! The hamster escapes and comes across a smelly cupcake surprise left by the unicorn. The narrator warns the hamster not to eat it, but it is too late. The hamster turns into a large unicorn-hamster and wishes for a unicorn-hamster party! 

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Image copyright Liz Climo, 2020, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2020. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

In this laugh-out-loud sequel, Ame Dyckman’s narrator is trying once again to convince our young protagonist to wish away another mythical pet. Dyckman does recap the first book, but I do recommend that readers check out You Don’t Want a Unicorn first so you can really enjoy the jokes.  Dyckman’s conversational style of narration brings the story to a new level of hilarity. The narrator not only admits that flying a dragon is fun, but dramatically concedes “FINE! It’s AWESOME, too, okay?!”  If your young readers are like my children they will appreciate the potty humor that the ending joke is hinged around. Yep, the cupcakes in this book are not for eating! The best part about the book, however, is the nice message of the importance of adopting animals. Dyckman’s main character has finally realized that while unicorns and dragons may be amazing creatures, they are not ideal pets. There are many animals needing homes who are tamable and loveable!

Liz Climo’s soft-colored illustrations of the boy’s adventures really highlight the fun. When Climo’s characters’ reactions are paired with Dyckman’s on-point narrations, the result is a hilarious adventure. The boy’s surprised expression at the charcoal on the barbecue and the dragon’s sneaky smile while holding the toilet paper will ensure giggles from readers of all ages. Climo is a champion at using the white space to the story’s advantage. The white space surrounding the dragon’s drool, for example, emphasizes the fact the boy is physically stuck in the drool! When the dragon grows to an enormous size, Climo cleverly uses the entire page to show that even the book can barely contain this dragon. 

A fun adventure that both kids and adults will enjoy reading over and over, You Don’t Want a Dragon! is a great choice for enchanted or mythical story times as well as for placing on a non-magical bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8 

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0316535809

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liz Climo, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Splurge Day Activity

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Fiery Dragon Craft

Watch out this project is hot! Create realistic looking fire to add to your own personalized dragon with the printable template and some simple supplies!

Supplies

  • Printable Dragon Coloring Sheet
  • Markers/colored pencils/ crayons
  • Cotton Balls
  • Red and Yellow Paint (I used craft acrylic paint)
  • Paintbrush
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Take your cotton balls and pull them apart. 

  2. Paint your stringy cotton balls red. The cotton ball will stick to your paint brush if you use strokes so use a dabbing a motion.  Younger children will need an adult to hold the cotton balls down.

  3. Let the red paint dry and then add in some yellow. Dont forget to dab. Let them dry

  4. Print out and color in your dragon

  5. When your paint is dried, glue down the stringy cotton balls so it is coming out of the dragon’s mouth.

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You can find You Don’t Want a Dragon! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Appreciate a Dragon Day

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About the Holiday

Appreciate a Dragon Day was established in 2004 by author Danita K. Paul to celebrate the publication of her novel DragonSpell. The holiday now encourages all readers to get involved with reading through fun activities—dragon-themed, of course! Teachers, librarians, and all those who love reading can find lots of suggestions for creative ideas that encompass art, crafts, displays, drama, and many other mediums on Danita K. Paul’s website. So, round up your favorite dragon books and breathe some fire into your reading today!

Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon: A Beastly Tale

Written by Virginia Loh-Hagan | Illustrated by Timothy Banks

 

Mei dreaded springtime when Nian, “the fierce dragon that used to rule the land” until a magical warrior sent him underground with a spell. Once a year though, Nian came out of hiding to quell his hunger. His favorite treat was little boys and girls. Even now, Mei could hear the “rumbling of Nian’s stomach” that told them springtime was near.

On the eve of the first day of spring, the magical warrior visited Mei in a dream. He told her that Nian’s strength was growing while his power was waning. It was up to Mei to keep the town safe. She had fifteen days in which to defeat the dragon, he told her as he gave her is magic cane. When she woke the next day, Mei heard her mother warning her that Nian was on his way and they must escape.

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Image copyright Timothy Banks, 2019, text copyright Virginia Loh-Hagan, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Knowing that Nian would eat anything in his path, Mei ran to shut their livestock in the barn and helped MaMa hide. She ran to get the warrior’s cane, but before she could hide Nian blocked her way. She grabbed a pot and banged on it with the cane and yelled at the dragon. Nian covered his ears. Then Mei got the other villagers to make noise. “They hollered. They hooted. They threw firecrackers at Nian,” and he slithered back to his den.

The villagers celebrated for five days and gave Mei a red silk robe in gratitude. But on the sixth day, Nian was back with cotton in his ears to muffle the noise. Mei, wearing her new robe, threw her lantern at him. The light and fiery robe frightened Nian. Mei gathered the villagers once more and told them to wear red and shine lights. Confronted with all of the red clothing and banners and the brilliant lights, Nian ran away again. The villagers celebrated for five more days, dyeing their clothes red and burning fires.

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Image copyright Timothy Banks, 2019, text copyright Virginia Loh-Hagan, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On the tenth night the magical warrior came again to talk to Mei. He reminded her that she only had five more days to defeat Nian, who was now bent on revenge. Mei knew she couldn’t rely on getting lucky. She needed a plan. By morning, she had one. She and the villagers filled red bags with food and stuffed them into scarecrows dressed in their clothes. But Mei hid the warrior’s cane in her scarecrow.

When Nian returned again on the fifteenth day, he gobbled up the scarecrows. But when he got to Mei’s, the cane magically allowed the warrior to ensnare Nian. Then, as destiny foretold, the warrior and Nian “turned into a stone statue in the middle of the village.” The villagers cheered Mei’s success and threw a party complete with food offerings, lanterns, firecrackers, and lots of red. Now, every year at the beginning of spring, the village celebrates this way and Mei always presents “an offering to the statue of Nian and the magical warrior.”

An Author’s Note about the Chinese New Year, the holiday’s traditions, and the Legend of Nian follows the story.

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Image copyright Timothy Banks, 2019, text copyright Virginia Loh-Hagan, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Virginia Loh-Hagan presents an enchanting retelling of the Legend of Nian, filled with kid-centric cleverness and, especially, girl power. Suspense builds as Nian returns on three five-day cycles to terrorize the villagers, and children will eagerly await and cheer Mei’s actions. Along the way, readers learn the origins of beloved Chinese New Year traditions. Loh-Hagan’s fast-paced storytelling shines with evocative language and personal, action-packed motivations. Nian is truly a fiercesome beast and Mei, born in the year of the dragon, is just the person to defeat him, providing readers with a charming role model in vanquishing the “beasts” in their own lives.

Timothy Banks’ illustrations employ the beauty and delicacy of Chinese brush painting while adding stylized line drawings and textured backgrounds to depict eye-catching scenes on every page. Nian is first introduced coiled in his underwater cave, the entrance to which mimic the monster’s enormous mouth. The urgency of Nian’s threat is evident as the frightened animals run for the barn, while the villagers’ delight in helping to scare away the dragon demonstrates the bravery that Mei inspires in them. Banks plays with darkness and light, and especially with the vibrant red associated with the holiday, emphasizing Mei’s accomplishment while creating meaningful imagery throughout the story.

Beautiful and compelling, Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon is an excellent story to share during Chinese New Year celebrations and all through the year. The book will excite children to learn more about the holiday and offers many opportunities for home or curricular extensions. It would make a welcome addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364138

Appreciate a Dragon Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chinese-new-year-word-search

Chinese New Year Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty Chinese New Year-related words in this printable puzzle?

Chinese New Year Word Search Puzzle | Chinese New Year Word Search Solution

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You can find Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon: A Beastly Tale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 31 – National Magic Day

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About the Holiday

Little ones know all about magic. Not only the rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind, but the wonder-of-the-world kind. Where do they get that wide-eyed awe at the amazing things the world has to offer? Some of it’s inborn, while the rest comes from you and books that make them laugh, think, and become part of a community. Reading books—like today’s—right from the start opens kids’ eyes to the magic around them—even what comes after “Abracadabra!” National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31—the date of his death in 1926—as National Magic Day.

My Magical Dragon

Illustrated by Yujin Shin

A prince and princess in a magical kingdom are lucky to have “a dragon who was kind and strong” watch over them. One day the dragon soars through the air with the princess and prince on her back. They fly over mountains and ponds, homes and mushrooms and are delighted to see all the wondrous creatures—like flying horses, baby dragons, little monsters, fairies, and even a unicorn—who lived in their land.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

They glided through the sky until they spied a very special place. “At Grandma’s castle they stopped for tea, which Dragon helped make magically.” As Grandma brought out scrumptious ice cream, sparkly cupcakes, and a colorful salad, the dragon used her fire-breathing talents to heat the logs and make the teapot boil and sing.

After they’d feasted and had fun with their friends, the princess and prince took a nighttime flight on their protective dragon. While the kingdom grew quiet and all the creatures slept in their cozy homes or under the stars, the prince and princess snuggled into their beds and the dragon “took a long snooze underground.”

The short and sweet rhyming story of a prince and princess’s trip to Grandma’s is the frame for Yujin Shin’s adorable, show-stopping illustrations and interactive elements that will have little readers enthralled with each page of this joyful board book. The fun begins on the cover with a wheel to turn that adds a rainbow of glittery highlights to the dragon’s wings, body, and fire through shaped cutouts. 

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Opening the book, readers enter the kingdom at the front gate of the violet castle. On the lawn a winged pony meets a butterfly, a pink and a purple unicorn splash in a fountain, and cute-as-a-bug bugs peek out of colorful flowers. A mermaid in the moat even swims by to say hello. The highlight of the spread is the silver gate, which lifts up with a gentle push to reveal the prince and princess in the tower, a knight, a fairy, and a smiling monster. Down below, behind the gate, an orange and spotted dragon rouses from a nap.

Turn the page, and the trio are on their way to Grandmas. Little ones will want to linger over this two-page spread as happy and welcoming magical creatures appear from their fantastical homes, in clouds, and from behind mountains. Another easy-to-maneuver interactive element lets kids set the dragon’s wings flapping up and down. The prince and princess look as excited and amazed as readers will be.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

At Grandma’s, little ones will spy a few friends who have made the journey with the princess and prince. Tiny fingers can easily move the wheel to help the dragon blow her fiery breath to heat up the teapot. In a clever use of the wheel, it takes a bit of turning for the pot to steam—timing that mirrors a real teapot on the stove.

The tranquil nighttime scene will put little ones in mind of sleep as they see now-familiar friends happily snoozing as the princess, prince, and dragon arrive back at the castle. A cut-away view of the hill under the castle shows the dragon’s lair, and how the baby’s play while Mom’s away. With the pull of a tab—the mother dragon settles in for a long slumber. The tab also reveals another room in the dragon’s vast den and the silhouette of a dragon flying across the full, golden moon.

On the back cover, a cute mushroom challenges readers to find her in the book. Locating this character on each page will charm little ones.

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Image copyright Yujin Shin, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

An enchanting, interactive story adults will enjoy sharing with their kids over and over, My Magical Dragon makes a wonderful gift for little ones, babies, and baby showers. The book will also be a favorite on your own home bookshelf and is a great choice for preschool and public library collections.

Ages Baby – 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419737312

National Magic Day Activity

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Cute Dragon Coloring Page

 

This cute dragon is no ordinary dragon, she’s a magical dragon! Print and grab the crayons—and don’t forget the glue stick and glitter!

Cute Dragon Coloring Page

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You can find My Magical Dragon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review