January 28, 2016


How to Dress a Dragon. By Thelma Lynne Godin. Pictures by Eric Barclay. Scholastic. $16.99.

I Love You Already! By Jory John. Illustrated by Benji Davies. Harper. $17.99.

     Silliness abounds here. How to Dress a Dragon is about, yes, how to dress a dragon, starting with catching one with a butterfly net as he flies by, then knowing how to “tickle-tackle him to the floor and give him belly kisses” (a wonderful Thelma Lynne Godin idea with a particularly winning Eric Barclay illustration) so he will sit still while you get him dressed. Well, almost still. Dragons are fine putting on underwear, “especially froggy superhero ones,” but socks are a bit difficult because “dragons have very ticklish toes.” And shirts – well, shirts simply will not do! There just aren’t any that dragons find acceptable! Luckily, dragons “do like capes,” and the scene showing a cape-clad, underwear-and-socks-wearing dragon flying aloft while carrying the little boy who dressed him (to the bemusement of a spectacles-wearing woman who looks out her window and sees the pair) is laugh-out-loud funny. Later, the dragon-dressing continues with shorts (better than long pants for going over big dragon feet), boots (dragons like green ones with googly frog eyes on the front), and hats (“they will only wear ones that fit nicely between their horns”). The eventual look at the fully-dressed dragon in froggy boots, cape and baseball cap is exceeded in amusement only by what happens after the dressing is complete: the dragon throws off all his clothes to get ready to play “his favorite game of Dragon and Knight,” in which, of course, he insists on being the knight. The concept of How to Dress a Dragon is already thoroughly ridiculous – and wonderfully apt as a dress-up-game book for young children. And that final twist really confirms the book’s sheer joie de vivre (which is a dressed-up way to say “fun”).

     Just as silly as the boy-and-dragon pairing of How to Dress a Dragon is the bear-and-duck combination in I Love You Already! The title here needs a touch of explanation: it does not mean a discovery that, my gosh, I really do love you. Instead, it is a comment made with a hint of exasperation, as in “doggone it, yes, OK, I love you.” Why the undertone of irritation? It is left over and expanded from Goodnight Already! In that book, Jory John and Benji Davies introduced quiet-and-peace-loving Bear and bouncy, wakeful Duck, next-door neighbors who get on each other’s nerves. Well, to be accurate, Duck gets on Bear’s nerves: Duck simply will not take “no” for an answer. Nor will he listen to “I want to be by myself,” which is how Bear feels in I Love You Already! It is a weekend, and Bear just wants to relax around the house. Not so Duck, who shows up and insists, “We’re having fun, whether you want to or not.” That is, they are having fun by Duck’s definition, which means going outdoors, having an ice pop (which Duck offers to buy until he realizes he does not have any money, so Bear has to lend him some), and taking an extended walk. Duck simply cannot take a hint, and does not accept Bear’s direct comment that although he likes Duck, “I also like quiet time by myself.” Duck is all about activity: “I’m bored already,” he says, as soon as Bear goes to sit quietly under a tree. So Duck interrupts Bear’s reverie – again – although eventually the two agree that they are “basically…family” and really care for each other. This ends well – or maybe not too well, because as soon as he is reassured that Bear loves him, Duck announces that they can go on walks together “every single day,” and Bear is left thinking that he has to stop answering his door. Placid Bear and over-enthusiastic Duck make an odd but amusing pair, and kids will likely be able to identify, to at least some extent, with both of them. Long-suffering parents who feel like Bear and have children who behave like Duck will, in their own way, enjoy the book, too.

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