KENNETH GRAHAME’S THE RELUCTANT DRAGON

Widely spaced lines of elegant type evoke the witty tone of Grahame’s classic, unlike either this stripped-down version of the text, or the accompanying small, childlike watercolors. (Why use teeny pictures in a really oversized format?) The reteller doesn’t edit out any of the tale’s incidents, though he has cut most of the dialogue and scene-setting descriptions, as well as some minor characters (also adding a touch of his own, by naming the boy “Jack”). The result is a story that moves along briskly, but at the expense of its literary texture; Jack’s mother barely has a speaking part, and the dragon’s generally peaceful nature is no longer mixed with that comically broad streak of outright laziness. Similarly, Segal’s tiny, stiffly gesticulating figures lend the episode a theatrical air, but are more typecast than the complex characters in Shepard’s deftly sophisticated drawings. The story’s theme of finding alternatives to violence always merits revisiting, but the original, however wordy it may seem by current standards, still makes a far richer reading experience. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-439-45581-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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THE GRAVES FAMILY GOES CAMPING

Polacco again exercises the surprising streak of goofiness revealed in The Graves Family (2003). Doug and Shalleaux Graves take off, with attendant children, oversized spiders and other household companions for Lake Bleakmire—a site so isolated that, along with Vernicious Knids, gnashing knarps, bilge leeches and other atypical fauna, the last Flatulent Sulphuric Fermious Flying Griffin (more commonly known as fire breathing dragon) lurks. Several misadventures later the Graves break away, despite the lonely monster’s efforts to trap them, only to discover back home that it has followed along, eager for more of Mrs. Graves’s delectable Jum Jill pastries. Wielding her brushes in a quicker, more cartoony fashion than usual, Polacco places her freewheeling, carrot-topped clan amid all sorts of oogy creatures, capped by a scaly, bat-winged behemoth whose explosive eructations ultimately provide the town of Union City with its most spectacular Fourth of July fireworks show ever. Delightfully gross and utterly unserious. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-24369-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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Except for the chocolate cure, it’s much like trying to care for an oversized cat…that, OK, breathes fire.

THE DRAGONSITTER

From the Dragonsitter series , Vol. 1

Caring for a traveling relative’s pet isn’t usually quite so…fraught.

In a series of increasingly frantic email messages to his oddly unresponsive uncle Morton, young Edward Smith-Pickle recounts a series of household mishaps caused by the large dragon so hastily dropped off to mind for a week. For one thing, the animal isn’t housetrained. For another, what does it even eat—besides little sister Emily’s bunny? In the wake of incidents ranging from scorched curtains to a hole torn in the refrigerator, Edward’s disgusted mom would happily foist the beast off on the police or the zoo, if only they didn’t keep hanging up on her. But worse disasters are warded off when Uncle Morton at last writes back to suggest feeding the creature chocolate, and the dragon is instantly transformed from surly headache into a charming, compliant companion. Good thing, because Uncle Morton has upcoming junkets planned, and this short opener, first published overseas in 2012, already has four sequels either out or planned. Amid Edward’s pleas and Morton’s soothing replies, Parsons intersperses large scenes of domestic chaos, frowning (later smiling) people, and an inscrutable, horse-sized dragon flopped bonelessly on the sofa.

Except for the chocolate cure, it’s much like trying to care for an oversized cat…that, OK, breathes fire. (Farce. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-29896-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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