cover image A Poor Excuse for a Dragon

A Poor Excuse for a Dragon

Geoffrey Hayes. Random, $12.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-375-87180-1

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%E2%80%94run amok, eat people, roar, breathe fire, act scary%E2%80%94but 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%E2%80%939. (Aug.)