Book Review: Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon
It seems like lately, illustration has been making all sorts of inroads into what was once text-only territory. You can’t go very far in a library or bookstore these days without coming across some new-fangled marriage between these two mediums. My Unwilling Witch, Frankie Pickle, Prince of Underwhere, Max Disaster, and (of course) the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series have all combined words and images in ways that have left catalogers in fits (Which shelf does this go on!?). Dragonbreath, by Ursula Vernon (Nurk)Â falls into this category. While I wish it delivered more humor and storyline direction, this school story/fantasy will have some appeal for young readers.
Danny Dragonbreath is the lone dragon in a school filled with amphibians and reptiles. Danny has yet to breath fire, and along with his nerdy friend Wendell, is picked on by classmates. Not a go-getter in terms of his schoolwork, Danny turns in a made-up science paper about the ocean and receives an F and the dreaded “See me” note from his teacher. His punishment? Completely rewrite the paper. When Danny’s mother suggests he talk to his sea serpent cousin Edward to help with his paper, a gung-ho Danny drags the unadventurous Wendell along for a tour of the deep sea that provides more material than the dragon can imagine.
The illustrations remind me of another series aimed at this age group – Babymouse. Boldy outlined, inky illustrations are colored with variations of muted green. They give the appearance of being created with a Sharpie, and are immensely appealing.
The storyline could have benefited from a dose of focus. Especially during the scenes that take place in school, there are moments of dialogue that don’t do much to move the story forward or add humor.
While it isn’t quite as compelling as I had hoped, Dragonbreath (as all series beginnings do) holds the promise of future success. This one ain’t too far off.
Watch a trailer for the book:
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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