cover image How to Be Friends with a Dragon

How to Be Friends with a Dragon

Valeri Gorbachev. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-3432-8

Young Simon “loved everything about dragons.” But when it comes to achieving his ultimate goal—as articulated by the title—he must rely on his older sister, Emma, for pointers. “If you ever meet a dragon, don’t show that you are scared of him,” she decrees, as Gorbachev (Shhh!) offers a splendid watercolor-and-ink image of Simon’s first encounter with a supersized green beast that breathes fire but has kindly eyes. If readers think that the story’s going to be Simon’s show after that, they’re in for a strange ride. Emma continues to issue a long list of befriending instructions; Simon assents to each one, though he is often seen breaking the rules in the illustrations, swinging from the dragon’s tail or waking him up with a poke to the nose. The dragon, who lives in a stately castle and wears a chef’s apron when he fries eggs in his mouth, indeed seems like a friend worth courting. But with Emma controlling the strings, Simon’s fantasy feels more like a marionette show than something he owns. Ages 4–7. (Mar.)