Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri dished out heaps of humor in their 2012 picture book, Dragons Love Tacos—and fans will be treated to a second course next May, when the ravenous, tacos-devouring dragon clan returns in Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel. It’s a companion to the original from Dial, which has more than one million copies in print in North America. Lauri Hornik, president and publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers, negotiated the deal for world rights with Jennifer Joel of ICM Partners representing author Rubin, and Rebecca Sherman of Writers House Literary Agency representing illustrator Salmieri. Executive editor Kate Harrison will edit the book, which has an announced first printing of 250,000 copies.
The dragons’ situation is considerably grimmer in the follow-up tale. While things get disastrously heated in Dragons Love Tacos when the beasts accidentally consume tacos embellished with spicy salsa, in their second outing they are faced with a calamity: tacos have become extinct. Rather than living in a taco-less universe, the young protagonist and his trusty dog fire up their time machine to travel back to an era when tacos are still plentiful.
Rubin, whose other collaborations with Salmieri include Robo-Sauce and Secret Pizza Party, initially resisted the idea of creating a second tale starring the hungry dragons. “I look at a lot of companion picture books and see people trying to replicate success of an earlier book—sometimes over and over,” he explained. “And I think when that happens, the books become, in a sense, a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, and eventually the quality starts to suffer. It wasn’t necessary to do a sequel to Dragons Like Tacos, since there weren’t fully developed characters kids would wonder about. It is a premise-driven, silly book, and Dan and I knew that to do a companion, we needed a good, solid story that played off the idea of the first book.”
Though Rubin noted that it took him quite some time to concoct a storyline that “felt fresh, worthy, and not entirely derivative,” he finally landed on the notion of a world without tacos and the dragons’ need to travel back in time to save them. “So much of the humor comes from revisiting tropes from the first book and twisting them,” he said. “Kids will still get it if they haven’t read Dragons Love Tacos, but if they have, they’ll even have more fun reading it.”
Still, the redundancy of the title, Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel, underscores both collaborators’ inherent skepticism about sequels. Salmieri, who shared Rubin’s hesitancy about doing a second book “just because of some kind of pressure to keep rolling on with a successful story,” said that when the premise for the follow-up did emerge, they ran with it with abandon. “We definitely approached it with a carefree attitude, and decided to make it fresh and fun. So we came up with a title that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek that shows we aren’t trying to take ourselves too seriously.”
Cool Rather Than Fiery Collaborating
Salmieri, who has completed almost half of the pictures for the second book, noted that his approach to creating art has changed somewhat since he illustrated Dragons Love Tacos. “I knew if I did the art exactly the same, it wouldn’t be as fun as taking some freedom with the new illustrations,” he observed. “I changed the way I made the dragons, and am planning on adding the tacos to the art afterwards on the computer—I don’t really want to paint thousands of tacos again!”
The most entertaining challenge for Salmieri was designing the time-travel machine for the sequel, which entailed drawing “tons and tons of different sketches with some cool new technology, to come up with a crazy-looking piece of machinery.” And a brilliant one, according to Rubin, who said, “Dan has made the coolest time-travel machine ever—he really knocked it out of the park!”
Addressing their successful collaborative process, the author and illustrator both credit their mutual respect for the other’s skill sets, their candor in offering feedback and advice, and their shared creative sensibility and humor. Hornik emphatically agreed. “Adam and Dan have a great synergy, and do a lot of bouncing of ideas off each other,” she said. “They are so in touch with each other, and so well matched. Adam will tweak the text so that if fits alongside the art better, and they are both willing to take leaps and make changes.”
The publisher attributed the success of Dragons Love Tacos to its “fresh zaniness and kid-focused humor” as well as to widespread word-of-mouth recommendation. “Buzz about the book traveled quickly, because the book works so well with kids,” Hornik said. “We loved the book here from the very start, and it was not a total surprise that it was such a hit, but we hadn’t really anticipated the extent of its success, or its growing popularity in its second year. It’s rare to find a book that gets so many belly laughs so universally—it has that fun special sauce.”
While awaiting the arrival of Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel, fans have an opportunity to get their Dragons fix. On October 18, Dial will release a book-and-toy package including a smaller trim-sized copy of Dragons Love Tacos and a plush dragon. And, luckily for kids who share the dragons’ culinary tastes, there are still plenty of tacos to be had in the real world.
Dragons Love Tacos Book and Toy Set by Adam Rubin, illus. by Daniel Salmieri. Dial, $17.99 Oct. ISBN 978-0-7352-2823-8
Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel by Adam Rubin, illus. by Daniel Salmieri. Dial, $18.99 May 2017 ISBN 978-0-525-42888-6