Top 5 Dragon Picture Books (for the overly-analytical parent to read with her children)

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Top 5 Dragon Picture Books for the overly analytical parent to read with her childrenTell Me a Dragon by Jackie Morris shows beautiful pictures of dragons together with short poetic descriptions. If you had a personal dragon, what kind of dragon would it be? Would it be snaggle-toothed and long? Would it be tiny “with whisper-thin wings of rainbow hues”? I think mine would be crusted with treebark colored scales that help it blend into forests and huge wide wings that unfurl when it flies. This book is a perfect one to read together when you have plenty of time to draw your own pictures and make up your own stories afterwards.

The Dragons are Singing Tonight is a book of poems by Jack Prelutsky, with pictures by Peter Sis. The dragons vary tremendously from mechanical dragons to servant dragons and bully dragons. Listen to the dragons sing of days of knights and glory in days gone by. Meet the bath dragon that no one else can see. Learn how to cure a sick dragon or what the dragons do to those who don’t believe in them.

Dragon's Forever was drawn as a line drawing on paper, scanned into the computer and then colored. He made the picture to help illustrate this blog post about dragon picture books.
Dragon’s Forever. By my oldest son.

One of my favorites of the poems is entitled “I’m an Amiable Dragon.” The first six lines set the stage describing the fierceness and the dragon’s fire but extolling the listener not to worry about them. Then the end says that:

you are free to pass unchallenged –
but only if you dare.

I ask my children, do you think the person really is free to pass or is there something still stopping him? It’s the perfect opportunity to talk about prisons in one’s mind.

Another poem describes a dragon who according to his master has all a dragon needs, but somehow his master misses noticing the “incalculable sadness / deep within my dragon heart.” The vagueness about what causes the sadness makes the poem a good one for discussion. What does he long for? The illustration shows him gazing at a dragon far out the window, flying across the moon. Could that be his love? Or perhaps it is the other dragon’s freedom he longs for.

This dragon is stomping on the ground while blowing fire. That doesn't happen much in these picture books!

If I Had a Dragon by Tom and Amanda Ellery describes a young boy’s wish for playmate other than his younger brother. It explores different ways he’d like to play and why the dragon wouldn’t actually be the best playmate.

Similar to If I Had a Dragon there is the book Who Wants a Dragon by James Mayhew. The book goes through different potential owners of a dragon and then points out why they wouldn’t want the dragon. Both books end with a salute to family, although in the one it is the dragon-less boy’s family celebrated and in the other it is the dragon’s family. They both have fairly limited amount of text (a sentence or two a page) although Who Wants a Dragon is in rhyme and the other isn’t.

There is lots of room to imagine how the books could be expanded. What other jobs could a dragon do? Who else might the dragon try to live with? Is there a way the dragon could change in order to fit in or are the problems inevitable?

Although the pictures of both books are cheerful and there’s a lot of silliness involved, to me both books also have an underlying darkness to them. They both deal with rejection. If I Had a Dragon involves the boy’s rejection of his younger brother; it is perhaps a normal aspect of life but at the same time something I was keenly aware of as I read it to my second son. Who Wants a Dragon deals with all the people who would reject the dragon. Putting the two books together I had to ask my children, is it a sad thing for the dragon, that the boy in the first book decides he’s not a suitable playmate? Or is it okay because the dragon is just a side character or better suited to other things?

There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent is a classic. When no one acknowledges the dragon, the dragon grows until finally they have to acknowledge the problem. This book could be a metaphor for so many things. I think of how a child’s problem or concern might be a dragon, growing larger the longer the parent denies its existence and then shrinking down to nothing when acknowledged.

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