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A Poor Excuse for a Dragon


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About the Author

Geoffrey Hayes has written and illustrated more than forty children's books, including the popular series of Otto and Uncle Tooth mysteries (Step into Reading), the beloved Bear By Himself, and the Patrick Bear books. In 2010 Geoffrey received the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for Benny and Penny in the Big No-No.


This jolly Step into Reading title stars a less-than ferocious dragon who leaves home with a to-do list and a directive from his father: "Make us proud of you." Fred's instructions seem simple enough-run amok, eat people, roar, breathe fire, act scary-but prove difficult to pull off. He gets dizzy when he tries to run amok, the castle cook tells him his roar "sounds like a meow," and the princess announces that the fire he breathes "looks like a birthday candle." But Fred is good at eating people, and with a smug "I'll show you," he swallows the cook, princess, and a singing bird whole, which makes his stomach ache. With the help of a witch, a giant, and a shepherd boy, Fred's victims are freed, and he happily takes up residence in the castle moat. Punchy dialogue (castle cook Mrs. Green is, in particular, a spitfire) and compact sentences should make this a read-aloud delight, while Hayes's (the Benny and Penny books) cartoons, in which these classic fairy tale characters resemble toys, add significant fun of their own. Ages 7-9. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

K-Gr 2-A young dragon's parents send him off to make his way in the world with advice on how to be a good dragon: "Rum amok. Eat People. Roar. Breathe fire. Act scary." But none of this comes naturally to Fred; despite his scary red eyes, each of his well-meaning attempts fizzles. Having eaten several folks he's met along the way (including a princess and a frog chef), he develops a major bellyache and enlists the help of a giant, a witch, and a shepherd to extricate them. When all of the characters are themselves again, the princess asks Fred to become her palace's House Dragon-no fire-breathing required-a position for which he is happily suited. Entertaining black-line and colored pencil cartoon drawings enliven this Kuklapolitan-esque cast. Part-slapstick, part-fairy tale, the gently humorous plot has enough twists and turns to keep newly independent readers engaged.-Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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