CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 23 . . . . February 17, 2012
Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail and Other Book Bites.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
“We must stop dithering and ask this dragon if he knows the way to Deptford.”
“I think we are okay. This is a fruit-eating dragon, and I happen to know that fruit-eating dragons are friendly.”
(Will this lot ever stop talking? Will the dragon help them get home to Deptford?)
Martin Springett’s Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail and Other Book Bites contains 13 “book bites” or story starters that a child can use to free the imagination and start writing. Each of the book bites consists of one page of text and one full page, full colour “book cover” illustration.
The variety and creativity in the text and in the illustrations are great features of the book. Provided they have some interest in fantasy stories, most children will be able to find within the covers of this book a story starter that they will happily pursue. Another feature of the book is that the illustrations are very different in style one from another. They really do appear as if they have been derived from separate books. Springett is to be applauded for this versatility and flexibility of style.
The imaginative creativity of the illustrations is matched by the text. The stories are populated by such characters as the gloomy Spong, the wise Harumpf, Sir Noodlebut the Brave, the incorrigible Edward Fitchpuddle, and a talking (nattering) tree. At the end of each story starter, Springett poses two or three questions to help young writers to proceed. For instance, following the story starter containing the optimistic Pin and the pessimistic Chip, readers are asked: “How does Pin get through the day with a friend like Chip? They must have something in common. What do you think happens next?” After the book bite for the story entitled “Glimmerland,” Springett asks: “What will Annie find behind the door? Will her grandparents notice that she has gone? And will her piano ever be the same again?”
Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail and Other Book Bites is not dissimilar to Chris Van Allsburg’s wonderful The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Many teachers use Van Allsburg’s book with the budding writers in their classrooms. Although not of the same quality, teachers will find a place for Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail in the classroom library alongside Harris Burdick. Such books can liberate children suffering from writer’s block, knowing not what to write about. With a story idea before them, they can free the imagination and decide for themselves where that story might go. Many children, of course, do not require such support, and teachers should not insist that all students adopt and adapt the ideas of others but, for those who can use such support, Springett’s book will be helpful.
The publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, has set up a website to accompany the book. Children, parents and teachers can email stories to be posted on the website for each of the 13 book bites. It will be interesting to see what delightful creativity children exhibit in response to this imaginative publication.
Gregory Bryan is a literacy education professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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