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Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to Be Friends with a Dragon, written and illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev. Albert Whitman & Company, Thomas Allen & Son, 2012. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"After lunch, when the dragon takes a nap, you really shouldn't try to wake him up by putting a stick into his nose," said Emma. "Why not?" asked Simon. "Don't you think he's like a little joke?"

Not long ago I told you about a book that was perfect for a new big brother. It is called Shhh! (Penguin 2011) and was published just when I needed it most. Rowan was awaiting the arrival of his baby brother, Tate. I now have a few copies on hand for when it is needed once again.

In this new and pleasing tale, we meet a young boy enamored of all things dragon...and longing to make friends with one. As my little brother would tell you; if you have an older sister, she is going to have the final say in everything! Of course, that should be the way of things and it happens here for Simon.

Simon wants more than anything to have a dragon consider him a friend. His sister has the rules down pat, and doesn't mind sharing them at every opportunity:

""If you ever meet a dragon, don't show that you are scared of him. "
"OK," said Simon. "But I won't be scared."

Not to be deterred, Emma moves from one rule to the next. The two siblings togehther offer up a gentle lesson in manners, all having to do with how Simon behaves in the presence of a dragon and assuming that dragons have all the accoutrements of any normal appreciation of good manners, a gallery of ancestral pictures, a proffered lunch, an afternoon rest which should not be disturbed by jokes, and nighttime adventures with friends aboard. If Simon followed all the rules, he wouldn't likely have the fun there is to be had. But, he knows enough to agree with his sister and follow her suggestions...mostly!

There is nothing scary about Simon's story and it would make a wonderful bedtime book. I'm sure that the first share won't be the last. In fact, it might become a favorite over the next month or two. The artwork is done with soft lines, a subdued palette and a host of most enjoyable images of Simon enthralled in the company of his new friend. Emma is always the rule giver and Simon has his own quick retorts. Sure to be a winner for young listeners.

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