Dragons are creatures of amazing literary versatility. My preschool and kindergarten children love the magic of dragons, but they aren’t ready for the intense, fire-breathing kind. Luckily there are plenty of sweet and funny dragon books out there with just a few innocent flames or none at all. Of course, Dragons Love Tacos and Dragons Love Tacos 2 are frequent read aloud requests at our house, but when we need a break from spicy salsa jokes, here are six more of our top choices:
Not Your Typical Dragon, by Dan Bar-el and Tim Bowers
My kids think it’s hilarious that young Crispin is asked to light the candles on his seventh birthday cake instead of blow them out—dragons of his age are expected to begin breathing fire, after all. Crispin’s attempts don’t turn out as expected though, with various items—from band-aids to marshmallows—flying out of his mouth instead. Others spurn Crispin for his quirkiness, but he eventually gets the chance to shine. Very young readers can enjoy this story and its cheerful illustrations simply for their fun, but this title is also a great one for discussions about appreciating differences, as children are ready.
This Book is Not About Dragons, by Shelley Moore Thomas and Fred Koehler
This book evokes the classic hilarity of a narrator not fully aware of his situation. Glimpses of dragon parts poke out of the shadows as Mouse claims with certainty that there are no dragons, because, “This book is not about dragons.” Expect snorts of laughter as the stubborn mouse stands his ground, even as everything around him goes up in flames and the other characters run away in terror. In the end, “This book is about dragons,” and it’s a great one to add to any dragon enthusiast’s collection.
Dragon Was Terrible, by Kelly DiPucchio and Greg Pizzoli
Dragon’s behavior is deplorable (and uncannily three-year-old-like, making for great opportunities for subtle reminders). When the kingdom is at its wit’s end trying to control the beast, a smart young boy steps in with a creative tactic. Dragon tries to put up a disinterested front, but he just can’t resist the lure of a good storybook. This is a title parents won’t mind having on bedtime repeat so they can appreciate the clever jokes and illustrations along with their kids.
Dragon Gets By, by Dav Pilkey
Titles in Dav Pilkey’s “Dragon Tales” series are perennial favorites of my own children and others I’ve known. He achieves a hallmark of a great early reader book, successfully adding depth and humor to very simple text via illustrations. In this series of vignettes, Dragon wakes up groggy and spends the day confusing all his daily tasks, from buttering his tea and sipping his toast to mixing up his vacuum and lawnmower. Dragon never gets grouchy, though—he rolls with his mistakes all day, finally crawling into his houseplants to for the night after sleepily watering his bed. If your kids aren’t reading on their own yet, the Dragon Tales titles make for great read-alouds with an early chapter book feel.
Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafrass #1), by Asia Citro and Marion Lindsay
If you haven’t discovered this new series yet, you’re in for a treat. In the introductory title, Zoey is elated to find out that her scientist mother has a secret side job as a healer for sick or hurt magical animals. When her mom heads out of town on a business trip, Zoey assumes her role, and her first patient is a lethargic baby dragon. Asia Citro masterfully incorporates lessons about the scientific method into the story. The dragon on the cover drew in my kids, but they stayed interested to find out the outcomes of all Zoey’s experiments.
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon: My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragons, and the Dragons of Blueland, by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Ruth Chrisman Gannett
The stories in this trilogy of early chapter books are timeless. In the first title, young Elmer Elevator journeys to Wild Island to rescue a baby dragon, pulling something different out of his knapsack to outsmart each troupe of wild animals he encounters along the way. The remaining two stories are about Elmer’s adventures with the friendly and earnest dragon. These books are childhood must-reads; every child deserves to imagine what it would be like to fly across the ocean perched on a dragon’s back.
Are your kids dragon-lovers, too? Which stories captivate their imaginations?