cover image Baby Dragon

Baby Dragon

Amy Ehrlich, , illus. by Will Hillenbrand. . Candlewick, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2840-6

Hillenbrand's (Counting Crocodiles ) expressive artwork shines in this well-structured story about a baby dragon that grows restless while waiting for his mother to return from an overnight trip. More puppy than dragon, more endearing than fearsome, Baby Dragon waits semipatiently for hours (“He drew a picture in the dirt. He counted his claws. He took a nap”) but as day turns to night, he accepts a shifty-looking crocodile's offer to take him upriver to find her. Ehrlich's (When I Was Your Age ) plot climax is free of fear: when Baby Dragon realizes he's in danger, he bravely jumps to a convenient floating log while the villain doesn't even notice. The author emphasizes instead her protagonist's pint-size determination: he puts “one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other” until he returns to the meeting spot designated by his mother. Hillenbrand uses a variety of media, then tweaks it all digitally to achieve layered, batiklike effects—despite the dense patterning, his compositions are light and harmonious. Winning. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)