By Tom and Amanda Ellery
Simon & Schuster
The opening page of If I Had a Dragon features a command:
The urgency and exasperation in the voice of the speaker are palpable but the recipient of the command is unmoved.
“I don’t want to play with my brother. He’s too little.”
This common objection among children with younger siblings will be familiar to many parents and readers. Morton wishes his lump of a baby brother would change into something fun like a bulldozer or—even better—a dragon!
Comic scenes play out between the hulking, bright green dragon and the small boy, whose shock of red hair is a wonderful complement to the emerald reptile. The massive creature is stretched over the spreads against a sparse, smoky background.
The boy imagines going for walks with his new giant friend.
But a dragon would rather fly.
Perhaps a game of hide and seek would be fun…
But there are not many places such a humongous being could hide.
Maybe the boy could teach his massive playmate to whistle?
The succinct text is intermixed with wordless spreads and the simply drawn, cartoonish art is lively and expressive. The combination of the two makes for a hilarious picture book. As Morton imagines all the wonderful things he could do with a dragon, he quickly realizes how a dragon’s size and abilities could actually get in the way of all the fun.
Content in the knowledge that a dragon might not be the best playmate, the boy sends the imaginary beast home and happily joins his little brother for some fun in the sandbox.
Jennifer Lavonier has lived in Jersey City for over fifteen years and has worked in the children’s book world for nearly twenty years. She was the manager and buyer of Books of Wonder, Manhattan’s premiere children’s bookstore, and the assistant to Maurice Sendak, the author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are. You can find more of her children’s book reviews on her website, TurtleAndRobot.com.