How to Be Friends with a Dragon
written and illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev
2012 (Albert Whitman & Company)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Simon is enthralled with dragons. He confides in his sister Emma that he is going to make friends with a dragon. Being a protective older sibling, Emma lets him know that there are rules for being friendly with a dragon. A friendly approach without fear is a good way to introduce yourself. Simon decides flowers would be a nice gesture. Another rule is that you cannot swing on the dragon's tail. This is going to be a tough one for Simon. But the benefits outweigh the concerns. A dragon will cook a lunch of fried eggs without the use of a stove and if you wear a seat belt, free flights are included in the friendship. One very important rule to remember is to not poke the dragon's nostril with a stick. Simon thinks this might be fun, but Emma reminds him that dragons sneeze fire. When Simon thinks about introducing the dragon to his school friends, Emma lets him know that this is not a good idea, so he decides to keep the dragon in his room.
How to Be Friends with a Dragon is a whimsical celebration of a child's imagination. The watercolor illustrations are incredibly engaging. My wife saw the book in my hand and said "That's really cute." Young readers will love the subject and connect with the use of imagination. A great writing assignment could be to have students create a booklet about what they would like to have in an imaginary friend and what kind of rules you would need to have. I also appreciate the positive depiction of a brother and sister relationship. How to Be Friends with a Dragon will be a popular read aloud in your classroom or as a bedtime read aloud.