cover image Oh No, Little Dragon!

Oh No, Little Dragon!

Jim Averbeck. S&S/Atheneum, $14.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9545-6

Thanks to the "spark in his heart," Little Dragon is having a scorching good time—as evidenced by the "PHOOSH" sound effects and realistic digital flames that shoot from his mouth. But when an accidental "glug" of bathwater extinguishes Little Dragon's flame, he is beset by anxiety. Will anything bring back his spark? And if not, will Mama Dragon still love him? Little Dragon tries self-help (belly rubs, eating chili peppers), but it's Mama's kisses that finally do the trick. This feels more like a work in progress than Averbeck's previous books (Except If; In a Blue Room), an impression that isn't mitigated by the lazy "OH NO!" refrain and muddled motivation (the relationship between Mama and her son barely registers, yet it becomes the emotional linchpin of the story). Averbeck's artwork is more successful, especially when portraying Little Dragon's authentically toddlerlike acts of mischief and his fire-breathing talents (he's way beyond smoke rings—he can make hearts and pyramids, too). Despite the story's weaknesses, this endearingly impish hero should find fans. Ages 2–6. Agent: Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency. (Aug.)