cover image A Gold Star for Zog

A Gold Star for Zog

Julia Donaldson, illus. by Axel Scheffler. Scholastic/Levine, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-545-41724-2

In a fractured fairy tale of sorts from the duo behind The Gruffalo and other stories, Zog wants to be the best student in dragon school, but he crashes into a tree during flying lessons, gets a sore throat from roaring, and ignites his wings with his own fire breathing. A nice girl always appears just in time to patch him up, but she has troubles of her own: she’s really Princess Pearl, who yearns to escape the royal life and be a doctor. Will Zog and Pearl get the happy endings they deserve? And what of Gadabout the Great, a knight who shows up to “rescue” Pearl? Donaldson’s rhymes are somewhat lackluster (“Zog went off to practice./ He tried and tried and tried,/ But he simply couldn’t manage./ ‘I’m no good at this,’ he cried”), but while Scheffler’s characters are straight out of fantasy, they exude a sweet, down-to-earth quality that makes them instantly sympathetic. Readers will get a kick out of the genial self-awareness in his cartooning—on almost every spread, a character glances at the audience as if to say, “Can you believe this?” Ages 4–8. (July)