Where did this fascination with dragons come from? Perhaps it was the two library books that made it home with us. Or maybe it was my fault, re-discovering a two-year-old-rarely-played-with birthday present and giving it new life with my imagination.
At night, this mommy is fierce. She roars. And she just might breath a little puff of fire. As the children scream with delight, I sail red dragon through the air, its wings flapping, jaws opening and closing as they approach little arms, necks, and legs that run the other direction, then turn back for more. They love it. And I can't help but smile, too.
With a dragon living right across the hall in the boys' room, I was thrilled to see Donita Paul and Evangeline Denmark's newest book, The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari.
In the story, Padraig the dragon and his friend Roger the turtle want to spend the entire night on "safari" in the backyard, which they rename "Mount Sillymanborrow." Throughout the night, their imagination literally runs wild, transforming routine animals like a dog, raccoon, and squirrel into a giraffe, elephant, and a rhinoceros.
When one friend grows afraid at a particular sound outside the tent, the other comforts, encourages, or distracts him until dawn breaks, ending a successful safari! After this main story is a short three-page story that Roger made up but didn't get to tell while on safari because Padraig thought it might be too scary.
Illustrator Vincent Nguyen did a fabulous job with this book--I can't emphasize that enough. The pictures are just truly amazing--my children (and their mommy) really loved them.
The actual story, though, leaves a lot to be desired. For the age child this book is aimed towards, the jokes just weren't funny. The dragon's name "Padraig" also might be neat for someone of age to read Harry Potter books , but it doesn't roll off a young child's tongue well and is quickly forgotten.
Even the small three-page story in the end was way over their heads--it talks about a silly man who walks north, east, south, then west to get to his neighbor's house when he could simply have walked west and been there immediately. I tried to explain this story several times to my son and got a blank stare each time--not age appropriate humor.
The biggest flaw, though is that the book's cover says its primary lesson is to teach that "the dark might be frightening, but their friendship is stronger than fear." Uh....no--my children didn't get that. All they understood was camping out is fun (marshmallows!), it's cool to use your imagination, and there's really nothing frightening in the dark.
On the last page of the book is a Bible verse: "Do not be afraid...God goes with you; he will never leave you." I was surprised to see it there. Although I realize a Christian book is not what the author intended, the book actually may have had more impact and focus if the author would have taken this stance instead of trying (and failing) to prove that "friendship is stronger than fear."
**I receive no compensation for my review other than a complementary copy of the book from WaterBrook Multnomah publishers.