When a Dragon Moves In is another must-read picture book for families preparing for a beach vacation. A young boy is thrilled when he builds a perfect sandcastle, and a dragon moves in. There are lots of advantages to having a dragon around, like protection from bullies, and on-demand marshmallow roasting. However, it turns out that playful dragons have some disadvantages, too. And when your family doesn't actually believe that it's a dragon kicking sand and eating the brownies, well, things can get a little awkward. But it's all good fun!
When a Dragon Moves In can be read on two levels. You can read it as a straight up fantasy about a day at the beach with a dragon, and a very lucky little boy. Or you can read it as a story about the power of imagination. As the boy's family explains away all of the dragon's attributes and actions (""Listen to him roar!", you'll say. "I hear the roar of the ocean," she'll reply"), the more mature reader will, perhaps, think that the dragon is a game that the boy is playing. Or perhaps not ;-)
When a Dragon Moves In is written in the style of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the like. If this happens, then this will happen. Like this:
"Just about then, your dragon will demand to be fed.
First he'll eat all of the peanut butter sandwiches ...
... even the ones that were supposed to be for your sister.
Then his fiery snout will make the lemonade sizzle.
"Stop blowing bubbles in your drink," your mom will say.
"That wasn't me," you'll answer. "That was the dragon."
And you'll hear a heh-heh-heh from deep inside the sandcastle."
And so on. This style works well with the over-the-top storyline. The dragon's heh-heh-heh made chuckle. And Moore's integration of a dragon into a family's day at the beach is well done. Even without the dragon, it would be a pretty nice outing.
McWilliam's illustrations were drawn in pencil on paper, and then painted with digital acrylic paint. They have a bright quality to them, as though they belong onscreen (not in a bad way - you can just picture this book as a show on television). McWilliam sometimes blurs the backgrounds, to draw attention to the foreground, and this works well. There's a slightly cartoon-like feel to the characters. The dad has an elongated face, and the boy's ears stick out in a charming fashion. The dragon is big and red, but with a goofy grin and non-threatening aspect. My favorite illustration is one where the dad is tickling the boy with a feather (could be a dragon feather, could be a seagull feather...). They both emanate joy.
One little tidbit that I liked. Both the mom and the sister are shown reading while on the beach. The mom, in fact, barely responds to the boy's remarks about the dragon because she's immersed in her book (or sleepy - it's hard to tell).
When a Dragon Moves In is a treasure. Over-the-top fun in eyecatching colors, realistic family togetherness, and a celebration of the power of imagination. Definitely one to add to the summer reading list.
Publisher: Flashlight Press (@FlashlightPress)
Publication Date: May 1, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).