skip to Main Content

Children’s Picture Book Review – You Don’t Want a Dragon!

YOU DON’T WANT A DRAGON!

Written by Ame Dyckman

Illustrated by Liz Climo

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; $17.99, Ages 4-8) 

 

YDWADragon_cover

e

You Don’t Want a Dragon!, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Liz Climo, is a follow-up to You Don’t Want a Unicorn!, which I haven’t been able to get my hands on during the pandemic. However, as an Ame Dyckman fan, I feel confident recommending both. You Don’t Want a Dragon! is a conversation between the narrator and a child who has just successfully wished for a dragon. And even if you haven’t read the first book, it is quickly clear that this same kid previously wished for a unicorn, and it didn’t go so well. Apparently, the unicorn multiplied until there were many glittery, colorful copies (who make cameo appearances in this book). There also may have been some unicorn poop, which seems to be cupcakes! Now the kid has wished an adorable dragon into his life.

 

YDWADragon int1
Interior spread from You Don’t Want a Dragon! written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Liz Climo, Little Brown BYR ©2020.

e

Dyckman’s books are always fun to read aloud. I called the book a “conversation,” but in fact, the youngster in the book doesn’t say anything. Using second person, the narrator addresses, and engages, the main character: “NOW you’ve done it! I TOLD YOU not to wish for a dragon!,” while the boy in the illustrations answers with action. He plays with his new pet through several happy spreads until the dragon starts behaving like a troublesome canine. The narrator warns that he’s also becoming “GINORMOUS … You just don’t have the space for a dragon. In your heart, yes. But in your house … no.”

Climo is a comic artist for The Simpsons and also wrote and illustrated several books before collaborating with Dyckman on You Don’t Want a Unicorn! and You Don’t Want a Dragon!. The kid’s world is drawn in thin outlines filled with gentle colors; the dragon is a soft green with a purple tummy and wings. And don’t forget to note the child’s t-shirt in the cover art. While the illustrations show their kinship with The Simpsons, they are more comfortable than wacky, reminiscent of the Clifford the Big Red Dog books but with more attention to detail and scale. 

e

YDWADragon int2
Interior art from You Don’t Want a Dragon! written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Liz Climo, Little Brown BYR ©2020.

e

I expected to enjoy this book and was not disappointed. There’s lots of Dyckman’s trademark humor, and it fits so well with Climo’s art. For example, Dyckman writes that stories about dragons “never mention … WHERE charcoal comes from. DON’T mention this at your next barbeque.” Climo’s drawing? The dragon sports a toilet-paper-roll bracelet and a proud grin while the kid, wide-eyed, stands next to a grill with flaming briquettes piled high. 

Eventually, the narrator convinces the kid to wish the dragon away. Kids aren’t meant to have magical creatures for pets. “It’s for the best.” You might wonder what the kid will wish for next, except there’s a twist: he finds a completely ordinary pet.

Or does he?

   • Reviewed by Mary Malhotra

Share this:

Children’s Picture Book Review – The Stray by Molly Ruttan

THE STRAY

Written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan

(Nancy Paulsen Books; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

 

 

It’s not every day that a creature from far off in the galaxy crash lands its UFO on Earth. So when it does, in The Stray written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan, the thoughtful thing to do is bring the alien home if you happen to encounter it. That’s exactly what the family in Ruttan’s debut picture book does. Ironically the family doesn’t seem to get that he is not a dog, at first, like when they note he didn’t have a collar, and give him among other things, a Frisbee and a bone, which adds to the hilarity of the situation. The author illustrator has not only created an amusing and fun way to tell the story of finding a stray, she’s brought it heart and that’s a wonderful combination.

In summary, after the family find the stray, an out-of-this-world kind of dog, they bring it home and name the pet Grub. Now Grub’s no ordinary stray and gets up to all sorts of mischief. Yet, despite his errant ways, the family still love him. That message of unconditional love shines in every illustration. And adorable Grub knows how to create chaos. You’ll see exactly what havoc Grub can wreak in the neighborhood street spread below. This is a scene you’ll want to look at closely with kids because Ruttan’s ensured there’s a lot going on. In fact, the entire book’s a delightful visual romp filled with energetic art in a bluish palette, blending whimsy and emotion on every page.

 

 

Ruttan TheStray p04-05 We-found-a-stray fin
Interior spread from The Stray written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan, Nancy Paulsen Books ©2020.

 

No matter what the family does and how much love they bestow upon Grub, he doesn’t seem to be happy. That makes them wonder “… if it was because he already had a family somewhere else.” This key element of The Stray, that everyone lost belongs somewhere and helping them find their way home is kind, will be a comforting one for children. Seeing Grub’s adoptive family go through the experience together to locate his outer space family is also reassuring. Young readers will be happy when it turns out Grub’s Earth family didn’t have to try very hard.

 

Ruttan TheStray p09 We-named-him-Grub fin
Interior art from The Stray written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan, Nancy Paulsen Books ©2020.

 

In interviews Ruttan’s mentioned that she always wanted The Stray to have a dual story line, one in which she drew upon her own family’s experience of finding strays over the years paired with comical things going on in the illustrations which weren’t mentioned in the spare text. That works so well here that kids will be pointing things out to their parents as the story is read. Ruttan’s also added a few “Easter eggs” to the illustrations, for those hard-core fans of UFO lore, like the portrait of Barney and Betty Hill on the wall in living room, the symbols found in the 1947 wreckage at Roswell on the Frisbee, and others. Don’t forget to peek under the book jacket because the case cover art is different.

 

Stray Neighborhood AFTER
Interior spread from The Stray written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan, Nancy Paulsen Books ©2020.

 

The engaging art was created with charcoal, pastel, and a little liquid acrylic paint thrown in. The final art was made using digital media. Whether you’re seeking a bedtime story or one to share at story time, The Stray will find a way into your heart as it did mine.

Come back tomorrow for an interview with Molly about how she launched her picture book during the pandemic when bookstores were closed.

NOTEWORTHY FACT: Today is the 51st anniversary of the first moon landing! While it’s not a UFO event, it’s a significant day for humankind and space. 

 

•Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

Find out more about The Stray in my January 2020 cover reveal with a guest post by Molly here.

Download fun activities to accompany your reading of The Stray here.

 

Share this:

Our Very Own Dog: Taking Care of Your Very First Pet by Amanda McCardie

Our Very Own Dog:
Taking Care of Your Very First Pet
Written by Amanda McCardie
Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino
(Candlewick Press; $15.99, Ages 3-7)

 

Our Very Own Dog cover image

 

This week is National Pet-Sitters Week. Then, on March 23, it’s National Puppy Day, so let’s give a shout out to pets and puppy lovers and their caregivers everywhere!

Our Very Own Dog by Amanda McCardie is THE book to share with your children if you’re even just entertaining the idea of getting a pet. It’s also the perfect picture book to read once you’ve decided to welcome a new dog into your home. The story revolves around Sophie, once a shelter dog, and now starting over with her forever family. Written and illustrated in a gentle, accessible way, Our Very Own Dog will help children learn all about what’s involved in caring for and training man’s best friend. Whether that involves feeding them, taking them to the dog park to socialize or bathing them, McCardie has covered it all.

 

Interior spread from Our Very Own Dog: Taking Care of Your Very First Pet by Amanda McCardie with illustrations by Salvatore Rubbino, Candlewick Press ©2017.

 

What works wonderfully in this picture book is that kids will get to know Sophie and experience what she’s like at home and when she’s out and about as seen through the eyes of her young owner. And if Sophie’s forever family happens upon a dog show in the park, and Sophie happens to charm one of the judges, youngsters will not be disappointed Readers find out through Rubbino’s playful artwork and McCardie’s smaller sized text tips just what things new dogs are allowed to do (cuddle, play fetch, go for walks) and not allowed to do (steal sausages from the kitchen table, try to escape from being bathed) all the while being educated on important responsiblilities of a pet owner. The back matter in Our Very Own Dog contains a note on having your very own dog including illustrated examples of doggy body language. There are also recommended reads and an index making referring back to key points such as collars, grooming, walking and training as easy as saying “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” and “Heel.”

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Amanda McCardie
is the author of several books for young readers, most recently A Book of Feelings. She says, “Sophie is dear to my heart. She was the cheery, cheeky little dog I grew up with in real life.” Amanda McCardie lives in London.

Salvatore Rubbino is the award-winning illustrator of Just Ducks!, A Walk in London, A Walk in New York, and A Walk in Paris. He says, “I have always been fond of cats. But by studying dogs and watching their fascinating behavior, I now find that I love dogs, too!” Salvatore Rubbino lives in London.

Share this:

A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

A DOG WEARING SHOES
Written and illustrated by Sangmi Ko
(Schwartz & Wade Books; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

ADogWearingShoescvr

 

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

In A Dog Wearing Shoes, a lovely picture book about being lost, found, lost and found again, we are first introduced to Mini and her mom stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. There is a wonderful sense of being in the midst of a big bustling city, yet through the warm and humorous dialogue and engaging illustrations of black and white (with a pop of color) we are given a more intimate view of Mini’s world. When a small dog with huge eyes, no collar and wearing shoes wanders into traffic, every car screeches to a halt. Mini begs to keep the lost dog. Mom agrees. “We’ll have to take him home for now.”

IntspreadADogWearingShoes
Interior artwork from A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko, Schwartz & Wade Books ©2015.

After a couple of days, Mom tries to convince Mini that the dog might be missing his owner. But Mini is certain that her new dog is happy. “He has no collar, he belongs to me.” All is well until the day the dog breaks loose from his leash and runs off. The once lost dog is lost again. After lots of tears and even more hugs from Mom, Mini and her mother go to the Pet Adoption Center, the best place to find lost pets. When the little dog with big eyes is found everyone is happy. Mini now knows that this dog wearing shoes was never really hers to keep. She realizes that someone else must love and miss this dog too. Soon after tacking up “found” posters throughout the city, the owner shows up. The illustrations of the happy reunion are joyous. Even Mini is happy.

IntartDOGWEARINGSHOES_2_300
Interior artwork from A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko, Schwartz & Wade Books ©2015.

 

This very satisfying story ends with Mini returning to the Pet Adoption Center to find a dog of her own. Sangmi Ko has created a highly enjoyable debut book based on a true story. From beginning to end, this humorous yet gentle fast paced story is filled with heart and soul. The consistent attention to active visual storytelling will engage readers, prompting them to want to examine and relive each page over and over again. The back matter holds an extra treat where readers can learn How to Adopt a Dog.

  • Reviewed by Lisa Saint

 

Today’s guest reviewer, Lisa Saint, has just completed writing and illustrating her first picture book and is now working on a middle grade historical fiction novel based on true events. Lisa is a painter and teaches writing, illustration and book making in South Pasadena, California.

 

 

Share this:

Backhoe Joe by Lori Alexander

BACKHOE JOE
Written by Lori Alexander
Illustrated by Craig Cameron
(Harper Collins Children’s Books; $15.99, Ages 4-8)

Backhoe-Joe-cvr.jpg

Taking the traditional “rescuing a lost pet” theme and turning it right on its head, debut picture book author Lori Alexander has succeeded in writing an engaging and original story about an anthropomorphic piece of excavating equipment. With a son who was wild about trucks and a new puppy to train, Alexander found inspiration along with a clever angle. She combined the two things into one fluid, funny tale that both parents and kids will adore.

Nolan, while rock collecting, meets the lost backhoe and it doesn’t take long for the little lad to realize he’s just found his new pet. “Nolan had always wanted a pet backhoe.” Shy at first, Backhoe Joe begins to enjoy his new friend’s company. Nolan knows he’s a keeper. “Look what followed me home,” Nolan says to his parents. Now he’s got to convince his mom and dad that a pet backhoe is easy to look after. But is that even possible after Backhoe Joe’s just leaked all over the driveway? It certainly seems like training this piece of bright yellow equipment is going to be a daunting task! Kids are going to love all the surprises Alexander has in store. In fact they probably won’t mind when Joe gets reunited with his owner because it’s not the last time he’ll be seeing his friend. But the best part is that there’s still yet another twist that is super satisfying even for grownups!

The illustrations are a joy to look at. Cameron’s created several scenes where the digger’s awkward movements while trying to behave like Nolan’s pet feel believable. Readers will appreciate how hard Backhoe Joe is trying to be a good, but his bulky size is prohibitive. All the while though, the colors and expressions on the characters’ faces are cheerful and optimistic. And that’s what I enjoyed most about Backhoe Joe. It’s a positive picture book with an upbeat message about friendship and responsibility that will draw youngsters in and keep them eagerly turning the pages.

Read a sample of the book here.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Share this:

If I Had a Raptor by George O’Connor

If I Had a Raptor by George O’Connor is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan

Raptor-cvr.jpg
If I Had a Raptor by George O’Connor, Candlewick Press, 2014.

Let’s face it, kids love pets: dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, even snakes and lizards. But raptors? You’d better believe it! In If I Had a Raptor by George O’Connor, (Candlewick Press, 2014 $15.99; Ages 3-7), a young girl brings home a “teensy and tiny and funny and fluffy” dinosaur. Never mind that the little fluff ball, named Dinah, could grow into a carnivorous beast. Her plucky caregiver showers her with lots of love and attention, and in that oh-so-special kid rationale explains why owning a raptor would be “the best thing ever!”

A baby raptor is so teensy and tiny that she would be easy to lose. I’d give her a little bell so I could always find her. If I had a raptor, she would like to sit on my lap, and I would let her. I might even have to trim her claws a little bit now and then.

The illustrations are fun, and the facial expressions are priceless. Check out Dinah’s face when she’s caught clawing the comfy chair. When our well-meaning pet owner awakens the sleeping dinosaur to play, Dinah’s half-closed eyes and pinched nostrils look incredibly similar to those of an annoyed cat. In fact, this raptor might just be part cat as she likes to “bask on a sunny windowsill or snuggle on clean laundry. She would sleep all day long. She will run around like crazy all night long…she would stalk the little things that catch her eye, like birds, or bugs, or even a dust bunny.”

My young daughter loved seeing Dinah grow from a lap-dinosaur to a full-sized raptor. And she howled with laughter when finicky eater Dinah sniffs at her dino-bowl and puts her snout in the air when she disapproves of the meal.

Whether your child already has a pet or not, he/she will be convinced that a raptor is a great addition to the household.

Share this:

Naughty Kitty! by Adam Stower

Naughty Kitty!, written and illustrated by Adam Stower (Orchard Books/Scholastic, $16.99, Ages 3-6), is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

Naughty-Kitty-Cvr.jpg
Naughty Kitty! written and illustrated by Adam Stower, Orchard Books/Scholastic Press, 2014.

Available at bookstores later this month, Adam Stower’s Naughty Kitty! is sure to be a story time treat! I can already hear the laughter of little ones as their parent or favorite librarian shares this delightful picture book from the author that brought us Silly Doggy!

I absolutely adore clever cat books. When my kids were young I was always on the look out for something funny and
feline-oriented like this picture book. The hilarity of the artwork (see Kitty’s subtle facial expressions) coupled with the main character’s mistaken belief that her adorable and angelic pet is up to no good, make Naughty Kitty! one of this spring’s sweetest stories.

When opening this picture book to the front matter, readers will learn from a newspaper cover illustration that a wild animal is on the loose. At the very same time young Lily is bringing home her precious new pet Kitty. I love how Stower positioned the escaped tiger behind the hedge with just enough stripe showing to keep us turning the page.

“He was a bit scruffy …
and no good at tricks …
but otherwise he
was quite cute,
especially when you tickled his tummy.”

What works so wonderfully is that, while unbeknownst to Lily, the reader realizes a wild tiger is about to enter the kitchen where she’s left little Kitty alone. The escapee proceeds to make a shambles of the kitchen, devouring everything in sight including “two teaspoons and a dirty sponge.” Thankfully though, the tiger has no appetite for Kitty! Lily scolds the innocent kitten and cautions him to leave the living room intact while she tidies up the mess.  Can you guess what happens next? Yep, tiger who has been peeking through French doors, strikes again. This time enormous paw prints that have stained the den carpet hint at an intruder, but Lily still fails to notice the wild animal. It’s no surprise then that Lily, now quite “cross”, blames everything on Kitty. At this point Stower’s got youngsters pulling for poor, poor Kitty!

The shenanigans continue outside as Lily reprimands her pet yet again and threatens to tell her mother. But here Stower has a surprise in store for readers that makes reading through to the back matter a must. So get the book, read it cover to cover and when your own friendly feline is itching for a tummy rub, indulge him!

 

Share this:
Back To Top