cover image Dragonbreath


Ursula Vernon. Dial Books, $12.99 (146pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-3363-3

Vernon's (Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a Somewhat Brave Shrew) fiction/graphic novel hybrid stars an audacious young dragon who can't get the knack of breathing fire. After Danny Dragonbreath gets an F on his science paper about the ocean-written at the last-minute on the school bus and describing ""the rare and elusive snorkelbat""-his teacher tells him to rewrite it. To research the topic, Danny and his pal Wendell, a timid iguana, head for the Sargasso Sea. Guided by Danny's sea serpent cousin, Edward, the two encounter creatures like an octopus that can become polka-dotted or striped, ""mermen"" guarding Atlantis and a vampire squid that emits ""a cloud of glowing snot."" (They also learn about the bends, which Edward equates to ""shaking a can of soda, only inside your body."") Illustrated with comic book-style art with a lime-green wash, the story gets some spark from wry asides presented in speech balloons (""Why couldn't you have gone to the library instead?"" wails Wendell as a giant squid approaches). But scattered amusing snippets don't quite keep the tale afloat. Ages 8-12.