Dragons in Picture Books    

Tina L. Hanlon, Ph. D.
Ferrum College
thanlon@ferrum.edu

I.  Retelling Traditional Dragon Lore

II.  Folktales, Old and New

III.  Dragons in the Imagination and Dreams

IV.  Satiric Dragon Stories

V.  Tame and Timid Dragons

Dragons Home Page

See also:
Poems about Dragons
Dragons in Literature Collections
Dragons in Chapter Books and Novels for Children and Young Adults
Background Resources

  Tina's favorite picture book dragons

 

 I. Retelling and Illustrating Traditional Dragon Lore and Modern High Fantasy

Bouchard, David. The Mermaid's Muse: The Legend of the Dragon Boats. Illus. Zhong-Yang Huang. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2000. Chinese Legends Trilogy. Blend of history and myth to retell the legend of the origin of dragon boats and the ancient poet Qu Yuan, exiled to a remote island. Illustrated with beautiful oil paintings.

Ceran, Milivoj, Keith Moseley, and Skip Skwarek. Dragon World: A Pop-Up Guide to These Scaled Beasts. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007. "This book presents a thrilling pop-up exploration of the dragon types found throughout the world."

Conway, Brian, adapter. George and the Dragon. Illus. Tammie Lyon. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 2000.

Crossley-Holland, Kevin. Beowulf. Illus. Charles Keeping. New York: Oxford, 1982. Prose for children

Fletcher, Ralph J. The Sandman. Illus. Richard Cowdrey. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008. The legendary sandman, a tiny man named Tor, needs ground dragon scales to make the sand he puts in children's eyes to help them sleep.

Gibbons, Gail. Behold . . . the Dragons!  New York: Morrow, 1999.  Explains briefly, with colorful drawings, the development of many myths and legends about different types of dragons around the world.

Harris, Nick, Richard Jewitt, and Gaby Goldsack. Step Inside Dragons: A Magic 3-Dimensional World of Dragons. New York: Sterling Pub., 2006. Illustrated by Nick Harris, paper engineering by Richard Jewitt, words by Gaby Goldsack.

Hildebrandt, Greg. Greg Hildebrandt’s Book of Three-Dimensional Dragons. Text by Gail Peterson. Paper engineering by Keith Moseley. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.  Short versions of 5 tales with spectacular pop-up dragons, including St. George’s dragon and a friendly Chinese one.

Hodges, Margaret. Saint George and the Dragon: A Golden Legend Adapted from Edmund Spenser’s “Faerie Queene.”  Illus. Trina Schart Hyman. Boston: Little, Brown, 1984. Winner of Caldecott Award, 1985.  Hodges’ adaptation is based on the Renaissance poem that tells of Europe’s best-known dragonslayer. Spenser depicted the patron saint of England as the Red Cross Knight in a romantic British landscape of fairy folk and heroes.  Hyman’s Caldecott-Medal-winning illustrations include intricate borders that combine native English flowers and geometric designs, fantasy creatures, and details from the story.  Although some adults dislike the violent climax, Hyman’s glorious full-page pictures depict the ferocious power of the dragon and the heroism of the knight without making the deadly combat scenes as gory as they could be, and many children as young as four or five love this book.  Rich details of costume and setting place the dragon-slaying within a tale about the fate of a medieval kingdom with a colorful population of peasants and royalty. Lesson plans to go with this book at Childdrama.com.

Isham, Marion, and Steve Isham. Quest. Margate, Tasmania: Bandicoot Books, 2000. "A fisherman's daughter journeys far to confront a dragon and save her village. In this enchanting tale of courage and goodwill, folklore from a distant tradition springs to life in an Australian landscape. Enjoy solving the riddles and finding the hidden animals. A beautifully crafted replica of heroine Marreena's sword, will be claimed by the reader who discovers its name" (book description). Based on folklore from the authors' Tasmanian island home.

McCaffrey, Anne and Richard Woods. A Diversity of Dragons. Illus. John Howe. New York: HarperPrism, 1997. A large format book with spectacular colorful paintings tells a story that interweaves excerpts from ancient dragon tales and modern fiction by McCaffrey, Kenneth Grahame, Barbara Hambly, Terry Pratchett, Robin McKinley, Gordon R. Dickson, Melanie Rawn, Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Jane Yolen. Includes a table classifying dragons by their characteristics, and a long list of modern dragon stories.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. Saint George and the Dragon. Illus. Nicki Palin. New York: Doubleday, 1989. Instead of ending with a British fairyland wedding between George and the princess he rescues (as in Hodges' book, above), McCaughrean concludes with the mysteries surrounding Saint George’s disappearance and his adoption by English Crusaders as their patron saint. Nicki Palin’s realistic illustrations in earth tones, reminiscent of Northern Renaissance paintings, contain detailed portraits of the characters that capture the horror, courage, and other human emotions in the story of a besieged and rescued kingdom.

O'Connor, Jane. Dragon Breath. Illus. Jeff Spackman. Eek! Stories to Make You Shriek. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1997. "While visiting a town in Wales, a boy encounters a legend of a sleeping dragon that wakes up to ravage the countryside every fifty years, a story that seems about to come true once more" (Worldcat).

Passes, David. Dragons: Truth, Myth, and Legend. Illus. Wayne Anderson. New York: Golden Books, 1993. Short retelling of traditional tales, mostly but not all European, with rich color illustrations

Riordan, James, compiler. A Book of Narnians: The Lion, the Witch and the Others. Illus. Pauline Baynes. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Baynes produced new paintings for this overview of Lewis’s fantasy characters from the Chronicles of Narnia, his 1950s series that incorporates traditional mythology in modern novels. Includes a double-page spread on Eustace the Dragon from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (see also page on Novels and Tolkien book in this section, below).

Robinson, Fay. Where Did All the Dragons Go? Illus. Victor Lee. Bridgewater Books/Troll, 1996. The poem and paintings in this picture book depict dragons of the past, which children always understood to be good at heart, and speculates on where dragons have gone. Perhaps storms are our reminders that they have just gone to another world.

Roth, Susan L. Brave Martha and the Dragon. New York: Dial, 1996. A modern version of a saint's legend about a small village in France terrorized by a dragon. Description and book cover at Nancy Keane's Booktalks—Quick and Simple

Service, Pamela F. Wizard of Earth and Stone. Illus. Laura Marshall. New York: Atheneum, 1990. N. pag. Boy Merlin sees red and white dragons fight, foretelling the rise of Arthur’s father to the throne. Service describes the monk Geoffrey (of Monmouth) and his oral sources as the origin of the tale eight hundred years ago. Marshall’s illustrations are softer and less realistic than Li Ming’s (in Yolen, Merlin and the Dragons, below), but still striking with their splashes of color and engaging images of young Merlin and the Welsh landscape.

Tolkien, J. R. R. Bilbo’s Last Song. Illus. Paula Baynes. New York: Knopf/Dragonfly, 1990. Picture book based on song from The Hobbit, includes picture of dragon Smaug (see also page on Novels and Riordan book in this section, above).

 Yolen, Jane. Merlin and the Dragons. Illus. Li Ming. New York: Dutton/Cobblehill, 1995.  Merlin tells how Uther Pendragon's defeat of Vortigern and ascent to the throne was foretold by a fight of red and white dragons.  The dramatic paintings place images of Vortigern’s cruelty, the mystery of the huge dragon eggs buried under Vortigern’s ill-fated tower, and the ferocious dragon battle within the warm atmosphere of a frame story in which old Merlin tells this history to reassures insecure young Arthur (Uther Pendragon's son) about his right to the throne.  Also recorded on audiotape.  Click here for review by a student. See cover, details, and reviews in Jane Yolen's web site.

See also Background Resources page for nonfiction and reference books for all ages that retell old dragon legends.

II. Folktales, Old and New, with Dragons

Bateson-Hill, Margaret. Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain. Illus. Francesca Pelizzoli. De Agonstini, 1996. A folktale set in China.

Befeler, Roger. Too Many Dragons. Illus. Rose Mary Berlin. Grand Haven, MI: Fisher-Price, 1996. A dragon master plots to overtake Great Adventures Castle by leaving a giant spotted egg outside. The cook inadvertently hatches ten mischievous dragons out of the egg. The dragon master tries to use them to capture King McBeard and the castle, but the young dragons are taken off harmlessly by his tower machine that looks like a dracor dragon. Illustrations are in bright colors looking like Fisher-Price toys.

Bergsma, Jody. Dragon. Bellevue, WA: Illumination Arts, 1999. Bergsma was inspired by the red dragon that is the national symbol of Wales and Celtic knots from the medieval Book of Kells when she created this fairy tale about a gentle red-haired prince and a unique copper dragon born on the same day, who appear more cute and fluffy than awe-inspiring in the illustrations. With some guidance from friendly elves, the peace-loving young prince proves he’s worthy to be king by fighting and taming the destructive dragon, whose dragon clan in the Dark Forest are “stewards of the land” (8). Click here for reviews by students.

Biro, Val. Tobias and the Dragon: A Hungarian Folk Tale. London: Blackie, 1989.

Caswell, Helen. “The Dragon.” Shadows from the Singing House: Eskimo Folk Tales. Illus. Robert Mayokok. Tokyo: Chas. Tuttle, 1968. 88-93.

Chase, Richard. “Old Fire Dragaman.” The Jack Tales: Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachians. Illus. Berkeley Williams, Jr. Boston: Houghton, 1943. 106-13. Not really a picture book, but there is an illustration of the Dragaman as a big mountain man smoking a pipe. This tale combines giant and dragon images when trickster Jack rescues pretty girls from the Dragaman’s underground lair. Chase notes possible links with Beowulf. Compare with Gail E. Haley’s picture book Jack and the Fire Dragon, below. Description in Fairrosa Cyber Library of Children's Literature.  More details on variants of this tale in AppLit.

Cherry, Lynne. The Dragon and the Unicorn. New York: Harcourt/A Gulliver Green Book, 1995.
A gentle dragon and unicorn in an idyllic woodland setting help a young princess and her father learn to stop fearing wild things and protect the old growth forests. The fairy tale images of magical creatures confronting medieval men who wrongly assume that the forest hides dark and evil forces are combined with realistic details about how to determine the ages of trees and how building castles hurts natural habitats.  The unicorn, hunted for its magic horn, teaches that knowledge is more powerful than magic. The child who instinctively responds to the beauties of nature leads the way in convincing others that knights should not hunt unicorns or dragons, that nature’s secrets should be revered and preserved.  This is a contemporary story that reflects our desire for harmonious relations with both real and mythological creatures rather than proving that we can conquer them.

Climo, Shirley. The Irish Cinderlad.  Illus. Loretta Krupinski. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.  The humble hero Becan defeats both a giant and a dragon after a talking bull (instead of a fairy godmother) gives him friendship and magical help. On the Day of the Dragon, an event every seven years when a sea dragon threatens to flood the land and eats the fairest maiden, Becan fights the dragon all day; after he finally throws his magic belt, the dead bull's tail, it wraps the dragon’s jaws closed until it sinks. Becan then flees when his mean stepsisters appear, leaving Princess Finola holding his boot until the king's messenger finds him a year later, and shy Becan weds the princess he rescued from the dragon. Full-page doublespread illustrations in soft tones create a romantic setting for this tale of brave deeds, which shows that fear of floods and violence from the sea is linked with folklore dragons in the Emerald Isle.

Davol, Marguerite.  The Paper Dragon.  Illus. Robert Sabuda.  Atheneum, 1997. A brave artist finds solutions in his own scroll paintings for each task demanded by a destructive dragon. The dragon shrinks into a little paper one that will go back to sleep when the artist shows that love is the strongest thing in the world.  Foldout pages make the illustrations into long pictures like Chinese narrative paintings on parchment scrolls.

DeLage, Ida. The Old Witch and the Dragon.  Illus. Unada. Champaign, IL: Garrard, 1979. Old Witch saves the farmer, the town and herself from the ravages of the Dragon of Thunder Mountain, who comes down from his mountain every hundred years. Witch makes magic brew, uses reverse psychology to get dragon in cave under hill, and shrinks his tail and wings.

Dewey, Ariane. Dorin the Dragon. New York:  Greenwillow, 1982. From Folklore of Modern Greece. Edmund Martin Geldart, 1884. Wandering king’s son encounters a dragon that is a challenge and a father to him. Uses colored dragon shapes for first letter of each page.

Domanska, Janina. King Krakus and the Dragon.  New York:  Greenwillow, 1979. This Polish tale shows that folk art designs can be used very effectively in borders as well as lively story illustrations. The dragon that threatens the king and princess has scales of bright jewels tones, resembling an Eastern European mosaic. It dwarfs the brave king, overpowers him with its breath of poisoned smoke, and devours the livestock, until it bursts apart in the river, tricked by a resourceful shoemaker who uses a device described in the Bible: feeding the dragon tar and sulfur. The city of Cracow was named after Krakus, the hero of this legend. See also "The Shepherd Who Fought for a Princess" in Carus, Fire and Wings (on Collections page).

Dugin, Andrej and Olga. Dragon Feathers. Charlottesville, VA: Thomasson-Grant, 1993.
Russian author-illustrator team retell an Austrian tale with lavish, intriguing illustrations that allude to Northern Renaissance art, especially Dürer and Breughel. For detailed analysis, see Hanlon, Tina L. “The Art and the Dragon:  Intertextuality in the Pictorial Narratives of Dragon Feathers,” in Tales, Tellers and Texts, edited by Gabrielle Cliff Hodges, Mary Jane Drummond, and Morag Styles.  London:  Cassell, 2000. This picture book also reprinted in The Best Children's Books in the World: A Treasury of Illustrated Stories. Ed. B. Preiss. New York: Abrams, 1996.

Gäg, Wanda. “The Dragon and his Grandmother.” Tales from Grimm: Freely Translated and Illustrated by Wanda Gag. New York: Coward, McCann, 1936.

Gorbachev, Valeri. Dragon Is Coming! Orlando: Harcourt Children's Books, 2009. "Mouse frightens all of the animals she sees by shouting that a dragon is going to eat the sun, and then come after them." Similar to the traditional "Chicken Little" story.

Grimm Brothers. “Two Brothers.” A complex folk tale with dragon-slaying, found in many editions. See Links to Online Texts for sites that reprint different editions of Grimm tales.

Haley, Gail E. Jack and the Fire Dragon. New York: Crown, 1988. N. pag. Appalachian tale about Jack overcoming a giant that becomes a dragon underground, in order to rescue three sisters. Haley tells a longer version of this tale See Chase above. Description in Fairrosa Cyber Library of Children's Literature.  More details on this book and variants of this tale in AppLit.  

Lawson, Julie. The Dragon's Pearl. New York: Clarion, 1993.

Le Guin, Ursula. Fire and Stone. Illus. Laura Marshall. New York: Atheneum, 1989. A relatively simple story of two children who help save their village from a dragon by feeding it rocks until it becomes a stone hill. As the dragon blends in with the landscape, and the children sing a sunrise song of birth and nourishment, we are reminded that in many times and places dragons have been seen in the sun, in the shapes of the hills, and in lightning. Unlike many other modern stories of children taming dragons, this one invites us to respect the dragon powers of the heavens and Mother Earth, which nurture us as well as terrifying us at times.

Martin, C. L. G. The Dragon Nanny. Illus. Robert Rayevsky. New York: Macmillan, 1988. Has the flavor and look of an old folktale, yet it is a silly story with a nanny who outwits a dragon, baby dragons in diapers, and their dragon mother serving happily as a slide for royal children at the end.

Reddix, Valerie. Dragon Kite of the Autumn Moon. Illus. Jean Tseng and Mou-Sien Tseng. Lothrop Lee & Shepard, 1992. The Taiwan-born artists vividly illustrated Reddix's story about a boy with a magnificently decorated dragon kite that his grandfather made when he was born. When his sick grandfather is unable to make a new kite for their annual ritual, Tad-Tin regretfully uses his special one to observe the ancient Taiwanese tradition of releasing a kite at night to drive away bad fortune. As it flies away, the kite turns into a real dragon and laughs.  Since the grandfather’s illness is then cured, this story provides a heart-warming example of the benevolence and good luck often associated with Asian dragons.

Roth, Susan L. Brave Martha and the Dragon.  New York:  Dial, 1996.  A modern version of a saint's legend about a small village in France terrorized by a dragon. Description and book cover at Nancy Keane's Booktalks—Quick and Simple.

San Souci, Daniel. The Rabbit and the Dragon King. Illus. Eujin Kim Neilan. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mill Press, 2002. A quick-witted rabbit and a turtle help an ill dragon king find the will to live. Based on a popular Korean folktale often called "The Hare's Liver," this story contains an underwater Asian dragon king who is easily tricked into thinking he is cured even though he does not really get the rabbit's heart that he thinks would save him. The turtle tricks the rabbit into going underwater and the rabbit tricks the dragon into accepting a persimmon as substitute for his heart.

Stern, Simon. Vasily and the Dragon. London: Pelham Books, 1982. Russian story of Marko the Rich and Vasily the Unlucky, who encounters a dragon (as in Dragon Feathers). Contains dark mysterious illustrations, including dragon’s castle with open mouth for entrance, but dragon and his grandmother are very goofy looking. Vasily gets Marko’s wealth, returns home, marries Anastasya and helps the poor.

Stockton, Frank R. The Bee-Man of Orn. Illus. Maurice Sendak. New York: Holt, 1964.

Tucker, Kathy. The Seven Chinese Sisters. Illus. Grace Lin. Morton Grove, Ill: A. Whitman, 2003. "When a dragon snatches the youngest of seven talented Chinese sisters, the other six come to her rescue." Similar to the traditional tale "The Seven Chinese Brothers."

Wang, Ping. The Dragon Emperor: A Chinese Folktale. Illus. Ge Tang. On my Own Folklore. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2008. 48 pp. "A jealous warrior challenges the leadership of the dragon emperor. End note discusses the dragon in Chinese folklore and culture."

Williams, Jay. Everybody Knows What a Dragon Looks Like. Illus. Mercer Mayer. New York: Macmillan, 1979. Click here for review by a student.Loathsome Dragon cover

Wiesner, David & Kim Kahng. The Loathsome Dragon. Illus. David Wiesner. New York: G. P. Putnam’s, 1987. Rpt. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
Excellent retelling of “The Laidly Wyrm of Spindleston Heugh,” like Andrew Lang’s older version. Compare with Yolen's Dove Isabeau, below.

Wormell, Chris. George, the Dragon and the Princess. London: Red Fox, 2008. "Far, far away over the high, high mountains in an old castle wall, in a tiny, tiny hole there lives a little mouse called George. He`s very small and rather timid and he can be a bit clumsy too. But when a huge and terrifying dragon attacks the castle, George springs into action" and saves the princess. This books is admired for its detailed pictures, where children can spot parts of the dragon on different pages, and its suspenseful story told with few words.

Yacowitz, Caryn. The Jade Stone: A Chinese Folktale. Illus. Ju-Hong Chen. New York: Holiday House, 1992. "When the Great Emperor of All China commands him to carve a Dragon of Wind and Fire in a piece of perfect jade, Chan Lo discovers the stone wants to be something else."

  Yep, Laurence. The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale. Illus. Kam Mak. HarperCollins, 1997. A Chinese farmer’s youngest daughter, who agrees to go to a dragon’s underwater home to save her father, endures tests of her courage and loyalty. She recognizes the beauty in the dragon, who is really the human prince of the undersea kingdom. This is a poetic fairy tale about dragon transformations and love, with lush realistic illustrations. See a similar tale from Korea, "Sim Chung and the Dragon King," in Carus, Fire and Wings (on Collections page).

Yolen, Jane. Dove Isabeau. Illus. Dennis Nolan. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1989. Rpt. Crosscurrents of Children's Literature: Children's Literature Texts and Criticism. Ed. J. D. Stahl, Tina L. Hanlon, and Elizabeth Lennox Keyser. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006, in Part 3, Oral and Written Literary Traditions. A version of the ballad "Kemp Owyne (The Laidly Worm)" is also reprinted in this textbook for comparison with Yolen's adaptation of the traditional tale. Yolen’s lyrical style and Nolan’s striking illustrations reshape old folklore about a young woman who is turned into a dragon. When the wicked stepmother/witch transforms Isabeau into a bloodthirsty red dragon, this story seems to depart dramatically from more familiar tales in which adolescent girls are rendered helpless or put to sleep (such as “The Sleeping Beauty” or “Snow White”). The prince who dares to kiss the dragon three times becomes the victim, paralyzed as a stone statue until Isabeau uses his sword to seek revenge on the witch and then rescues him in turn. This tale parallels ancient legends of Kemp Owyne or Childe Wynde of Northumberland; in British ballads and folktales (such as “The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh”), a man rescues his bewitched sister by kissing her in her dragon shape. Yolen’s use of a lover instead of the brother, the dragon’s weeping while it devours young men, and ironic symbols of Isabeau’s loss and recapturing of innocence suggest that the dragon transformation represents destructive as well as redemptive powers within a strong woman as she comes of age. A positive theme also found in other old folktales is the legacy of wisdom and magic healing which Isabeau’s dead mother passes on through her white cat. Yolen’s Kemp Owain succeeds, unlike other young men who attack the dragon, because he listens to the cat’s advice, realizing he must throw down his sword and look “beneath the wyrm form” to see the weeping girl inside the fierce dragon. This story ends with the fairy tale wedding of the couple who will rule the kingdom equally, elevating the heroine’s stature more than we expect in traditional tales. Isabeau shocks the guests by wearing a red gown, but her prince has always loved her "for her spirit and for the fire that lay beneath the skin." After Isabeau’s endurance of her dragon transformation, he calls her "his fierce guardian, his mighty warrior, and his glorious dragon queen." Yolen and Nolan thus demonstrate that the power of the dragon does not have to be weakened or caricatured in order for an enchanted maiden to achieve heroic status. See cover and details in Jane Yolen's web site.

Young, Ed. The Sons of the Dragon King: A Chinese Legend. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004. "The nine immortal sons of the Dragon King set out to make something of themselves, and each, with help from a watchful father, finds a role that suits his individual strengths."

III. Dragons Portrayed as Products of the Imagination and Child’s Dreams

Baillie, Allan. Drac and the Gremlin. Illus. Jane Tanner. New York: Puffin Pied Piper, 1988. The illustrations reveal that Drac, the Warrior Queen of Tirnol Two, is a little girl playing with her brother, the Gremlin. The text tells of their exciting adventures saving the planet while pictures show the children playing in a yard among pets and wildlife, driving away a shaggy panting described who is "The Terrible Tongued Dragon." Illustrations contain an interesting blend of almost photographic realism and fantasy effects created with light, angles, and shading.

Banks, Kate. Max's Dragon. Illus. Boris Kulikov. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. "Max is looking for words that rhyme. His dragon is in his wagon – or was, for now its tail has left a trail, which Max follows. He finds an umbrella on the ground— “Found, ground,” he says, while his older brothers mock him for believing in dragons and sitting under an umbrella when it isn’t even raining. But Max believes in possibilities—and when he can show his brothers not only a dragon in the stormy clouds but also a dinosaur, they begin to come round. When Max demonstrates the power of his rhyming words to tame the dinosaur and the dragon and make the rain come, he wins them over completely. With amusing wordplay and beguiling illustrations, Kate Banks and Boris Kulikov celebrate language and imagination in a collaboration that is bound to be oodles of fun for everyone" (book description).

Bryan, Jennifer. The Different Dragon. llus. Danamarie Hosler. Ridley Park, PA: Two Lives, 2006. Noah asks one of his mothers for a story with a fierce dragon in it, but he befriends the troubled dragon and teaches him how to do different things.

Cave, Kathryn. You've Got Dragons. Illus. Nick Maland. Atlanta: Peachtree, 2003. A boy explores how to deal with dragons when they show up unexpectedly and cause problems in your life. He writes an advice column after gaining some experience coping with dragons himself. The dragons represent life's overwhelming worries and problems.

Cooper, Susan. Matthew’s Dragon. Illus. Jos. A. Smith. New York: Alladin, 1991. Cooper’s text and Smith’s brightly colored illustrations are rich with allusions to older fantasy literature.  Just as he is going to sleep, a young boy finds a small dragon emerging from his book.  Matthew and his dragon change sizes, escape out the window left open by the mother as in Peter Pan, survive an encounter with a huge cat in the greenhouse like Peter Rabbit and various lilliputian heroes, and finally rendezvous with "all the dragons ever put into the world of story." The wordless dragonsong fills "the moon-washed sky" in a realm of "mysterious, beautiful" wonders as different types of multi-colored dragons gradually take over the entire page.  Matthew’s obvious enjoyment while his mother reads his favorite dragon stories and his recognition of the many fascinating dragons he sees create an invitation for the child reader to continue exploring other dragon tales.

Dickins, Rosie. The Dragon Painter. Usborne First Reading, Level 4. Illus. John Nez. London: Usborne, 2006. 48 pp.

Ellery, Tom and Amanda. If I Had a Dragon / si yo tuviera un Dragón. Spanish transl. Teresa Mlawer. New York: Scholastic/Lectorum, 2006. Brief text in Spanish and English throughout. A boy imagines the active things they would do together if his uninteresting little brother would turn into a dragon. Humorous illustrations show a goofy green dragon would bungle typical childhood fun–taking up the whole swimming pool, blocking the movie screen, burning the boy's hair when they whistle. He decides "a dragon doesn't make a very good playmate after all," so he sends the dragon home and has fun with his brother in the sandbox.

Hunter, Mollie. The Knight of the Golden Plain. Illus. Marc Simont. New York: Harper, 1983. Typical knight’s quest for young readers introduced as boy’s dream, includes dragon-slaying.

Himler, Ronald. The Girl on the Yellow Giraffe. New York: Harper & Row, 1976. Young city girl sees bulldozers as dragons, among other imaginary sights in her neighborhood.

Howe, James. There’s a Dragon in My Sleeping Bag. Illus. David S. Rose. New York: Atheneum, 1994. A boy plays with an imaginary dragon, Dexter, instead of his brother, who in turn makes up camel friend Calvin. When Dexter and Calvin move to Boston, the brothers make up and start playing together again. Humorous illustrations of the dragon and camel intruding in the brother's daily lives.

Jones, Maurice. I’m Going on a Dragon Hunt. Illus. Charlotte Firman. New York: Four Winds, 1987. Boy finds dragon in cave, which chases him until he’s safely home from (imaginary?) adventure.

Karl, Jean. The Search for the Ten-Winged Dragon. Illus. Steve Cieslawski. New York: Doubleday, 1990. A toymaker sends his apprentice on a quest for a ten-winged dragon before he can make his own toys. As the illustrations reveal, the young man finally sees his dragon in the clouds and then in other rural scenes. Having learned that dreams and imagination are the source of inspiration as important as the mechanical skills he has practiced, the boy returns to the shop and constructs a magnificent golden dragon that flaps its ten tin wings when a key is turned. Closeups of heads and toys throughout this book emphasize its convincing demonstration that “dreams can come true.”

Kline, Suzy. Horrible Harry and the Dragon War. Illus. Frank Remkiewicz. New York: Viking, 2002. "Working on a dragon project in Room 3B leads to a war between two good friends--Harry and Song Lee." A theme of forgiveness emerges from their disagreement about whether dragons are fierce and fire-breathing or Korean good-luck myths.

Knight, Hilary. There's a Dragon Downstairs. Illus. Amanda Harvey. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. Sophie uses different disguises night after night, including a dragon slayer outfit, to confront her fear of a dragon downstairs. Her cat's door is the source of the sound.

Leaf, Margaret. Eyes of the Dragon. Illus. Ed Young. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1987. "An artist agrees to paint a dragon on the wall of a Chinese village, but the magistrate's insistence that he paint eyes on the dragon has amazing results" (Worldcat).

Lindenbaum, Pija. When Owen's Mom Breathed Fire. Stockholm: R & S Books, 2006.
Translated from Swedish by Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard. "Owen wakes up one morning to find that his mother has turned into a dragon!" He imagines a whole day with a dragon for a mother after a difficult morning with his single mother.

McCourt, Lisa. Granny's Dragon. Illus. Cyd Moore. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2008. "A grandmother tells her grandchild that an invisible dragon will provide protection from the monsters that she fears at night."

Moncure, Jane Bilk. A Dragon in a Wagon. Illus. Linda Hohag. Mankato, MN: Child’s World, 1988. Dragon emerges from book to show little girl different vehicles.

Morris, Jackie. Tell Me a Dragon. London: Frances Lincoln Children's, 2009. Different people have different images of dragons. See illustrations at http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/tellmeadragon.htm.

Moss, Marissa. Who Was It? Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. Isabelle breaks a cookie jar, blaming it on dragon and then other creatures and visitors.

Ness, Evaline. Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine. New York: Holt, 1966. Sam’s fantasies include riding a flying dragon chariot to “faraway secret worlds.”

Nolan, Dennis. The Castle Builder. New York: Aladdin, 1987. Nolan's black and white drawings show that a boy’s imagination can transform a toy in his sand castle into his knightly alter-ego, Sir Christopher, bravely confronting a dragon. Then the tide wrecks the castle.

Pendziwol, Jean. Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids (and Dragons). Illus. Martine Gourbault. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2006. "When a little girl and her dragon friend stumble into a fairy tale world, it is up to the little girl to keep her companion out of harm's way when they meet up with the hungry wolf of 'Little Red Riding Hood,' Snow White's evil stepmother, and other unseemly characters."

Pendziwol, Jean. The Tale of Sir Dragon: Dealing with Bullies for Kids (and Dragons). Illus. Martine Gourbault. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2007.

Pitcher, Caroline. The Winter Dragon. Illus. Sophy Williams. 2004. The Winter Dragon he creates through his art helps a fearful boy get through winter's darkness.

Riddell, Chris. The Emperor of Absurdia. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. "A young boy journeys in search of a dragon, through a strange land where he finds wardrobe monsters, pillow hills, and umbrella trees" (Worldcat). A dream vision using objects in the boy's bedroom to create fantasy images.

Roberts, Bethany. Gramps and the Fire Dragon. New York: Clarion, 2000. Gramps invites Jesse to see pictures in the fire before bedtime. They have a lively imaginary adventure fleeing a dragon that breathes fire although it is fairly cuddly looking. Jesse saves Gramps by flagging down a fire truck and spraying water that makes the dragon shrink into nothing, until only embers are left in their fire. A Children's Choice book for 2001, selected by American children through the International Reading Association.

Schaefer, Carole Lexa. Dragon Dancing. Illus. Pierr Morgan. New York: Viking, 2007. "A group of children pretend that they are a dragon to celebrate their classmate's birthday."

Sis, Peter. Komodo! New York: Mulberry, 1993. This amusing picture book contains an unusual blend of imagination and factual information about real monitor lizards called Komodo dragons. The narrator, who could be a girl or a boy in red sneakers, ball cap, and dragon shirt, has sensible-looking parents who indulge the child’s love for all things dragon and take the family to the Indonesian island of Komodo. While tourists crowd around for an inadequate glimpse of one rare lizard, the narrator strays off for a private encounter with a large Komodo dragon. Dragon images throughout the home scenes and in jungle vegetation when the narrator is alone show how the child’s enthusiasm and imagination make both everyday life and sightseeing more exciting. Vignettes of the child creating dragon forms with sand, shrubbery, and dirt, and gazing at them in books, shadows and clouds are similar to images in other books that celebrate the creative power of dragons in the human imagination.

Steck, Nyle. Dream Time Friend. Illus. Mike Kurrle. Tustin, CA: Dragon Tales Pub, 1999. "Dream Time Friend is the first picture book in the Dream Dragon Tuck 'em in Bedtime Stories series. It is the introductory adventure with the Dream Dragon, as a young child meets and is befriended by this Guardian of Dreamland. It is filled with easy to read and remember rhyming text and bright, colorful illustrations that children are sure to love! A great book to read to young children and an appropriate book for those that are beginning to become independent readers!" (product description)

Varvasovsky, Laszlo. Henry in Shadowland. 1980 by Insel Verlag. Boston: David R. Godine, 1990. Henry is bored until his mother's friend teaches him how to make shadow puppets. Their play, "The Firetooth Dragon and Princess Gundi," is inserted into the main story, with silhouette shadow images combined with colored pictures when Henry finds himself stepping into the shadow theater and taking part in the play. Firetooth is a rather wacky dragon who asks to be colored and tells the history of Shadowland in times when they did and did not have colors.

Waddell, Martin. Bee Frog. Illus: Barbara Firth. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press, 2007. "It seems that no one pays attention to little Bee Frog, even when she pretends to be a very fierce dragon, so she hops away from home, but soon finds herself wondering if a dragon ever gets lonely."

Ward, Helen. The Dragon Machine. Illus. Wayne Anderson. 2003. New York: Puffin Books, 2005. A young boy named George starts seeing dragons everywhere around him. As they follow him around and start causing trouble that he gets blamed for, such as breaking things, he reads about dragons in the library and finds a map of wilderness dragon habitat. He constructs a machine that flies like a dragon and crashes in the wilderness with dragons following. They disappear and his parents find him there. Back at home, George gets a dog for a present but he is the only one who notices its dragon features. Anderson's illustrations create a soft, dreamlike atmosphere throughout the scenes of small dragons frolicking in a modern neighborhood and George's wilderness adventure.

Wegen, Ron. Sky Dragon. New York: Greenwillow, 1982. Children who see animals and dragons in the clouds are inspired to make a snow dragon rather than the usual snow fort.

Wells, Rosemary. Max's Dragon Shirt. New York: Dial, 1991. One of a popular series about the toddler bunny Max. While shopping with his sister Ruby, he insists that he needs a dragon shirt, He manages to get his way through a series of mishaps in the store that frustrate Ruby's attempts to do some serious shopping.

Wiesner, David. Free Fall.  New York: Mulberry, 1988. A wordless dream fantasy with continuous images that fade into each other. The dragon may be docile enough to allow the awestruck dreaming boy to walk right over its tongue, and it ends up shrinking into an image in a book, but it contributes to the mystery, humor, and originality of the book when the reader discovers that pointed castle walls made of stone on one page become part of the dragon’s scaly body on the next two pages.

Wood, Audrey. The Flying Dragon Room. Illus. Mark Teague. New York: Scholastic, 1996. While Mrs. Jenkins paints his house and Patrick is not allowed to help, she loans him her special tools that he uses to build a fantastical place in the backyard. His family and Mrs. Jenkins tour the rooms of bubbles, food, dinosaurs, etc. Mrs. Jenkins invites them to see her house with its Flying Dragon Room as she flies off on a dragon.

Woodruff, Elvira. A Dragon in my Backpack. Illus. Denise Brunkus. Mahwah, NJ: WhistleStop, 1996. Ben loves dragons and takes his stuffed dragon Bumps everywhere, but they both have doubts about starting kindergarten the next day. After his father reads stories about fearless knights, Ben dreams about Sir Ben, who has to go to kindergarten for a day after a mishap keeps a prince out of school and a substitute pupil is required. Sir Ben's dragon Beastly Bumps follows him and burns down the school door. They enjoy their daily fights at the castle but they get in trouble in school for fighting and causing other problems, yet they end up saving everyone and getting gold stars. This silly dream about a burly knight who is intimidated by kindergarten convinces Ben that to enjoy his first real day at school.


IV.  Satiric Dragon Stories

V.  Tame and Timid Dragons


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This page's last update: September 20, 2010

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