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Thursday, August 27, 2015

How To Draw a Dragon, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. 2015. $21.99 ages 4 and up

when they wake,
are grumpy.
And their heads
are rather bumpy.

Soothe your dragon
with a song
as you draw his
teeth so long."

I have long been an admirer of Douglas Florian and his work. I think that I have a copy of almost all of the more than 30 books he has created. They all  remain on my shelves despite constant culling to keep only the best! So, I was keen to see a copy of How To Draw A Dragon. There are few subjects that young readers find more attractive.

The opening endpapers show the recognizable parts of a dragon, and a few versions of how they might be drawn. If you are anything like me, you will probably immediately flip to the back endpapers to see if they are the same. Surprise! They are not; however, they do have elements from our initial introduction.

The children within in the book change with every turn of the page. Each turn offers a new look dragon, a glimpse at the neighborhood, and uncountable details. Each one of those children has somehow persuaded a dragon to pose for them.  The dragons, in turn, manage to get the child's  creative juices flowing as they draw what they see.

We are encouraged by the author to recognize that there is some inherent danger in being so close to a dragon, and to be careful when drawing particular parts as we go. The spreads are filled with color, of all different hues depending on the dragon being drawn. Advice is given freely:

"Draw your dragon's pointed spines
using lots of jagged lines.

While your dragon's laying eggs,
take the time to draw her legs."

Using mixed-media collage for his wonderful artwork encourages readers to pay close attention to the colors, patterns, expressions, and textures. He makes his images seem as if they have been created by the children themselves - a quite brilliant accomplishment, but not surprising when you know his other work. What an invitation for readers to head off and draw their own dragons!

Don't miss the final gatefold which provides the real reason for the advice given. Then read it again, and the let the imagination determine what's to follow. You need this book!

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