BOOK REVIEW: ‘There’s a Dragon in My Closet’ by Dorothea Taylor, Illustrated by Charly Palmer

c.2017, Bolden
$17.95 ($25.95 Canada)
32 pages

You didn’t do it.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do it — you weren’t even around when it happened. You don’t know who to blame. Maybe it was your dog, your mom, or maybe, as in the new book by Dorothea Taylor, illustrated by Charly Palmer, “There’s a Dragon in My Closet.”

The little boy was sure of lots of things: he had a soft, warm bed to sleep in. He had a dog he played with every day. His daddy loved him, his mother took care of him. And there was a dragon in his closet.

No, seriously! It was “a kind and gentle dragon” but it was mischievous — which, of course, the boy got blamed for. But he wasn’t the cause of the mess in his room or the broken flower pot or the muddy footprints on the floor. It was the dragon’s fault. The boy didn’t do any of those things. He was innocent and he tried to make his parents believe him, but they didn’t.

The dragon at an entire jar of cookies — for real! The dragon wiggled behind the bathroom door and made the boy spit toothpaste — honest! The dragon brought soup for the boy when he was sick … didn’t he? And that dollar when the boy lost his tooth — that had to be the dragon’s work, right?

Then one day, the boy’s mom got tired of listening to stories of a dragon in the closet. She told the boy they’d “get to the bottom of this” and she dragged him up the stairs to his bedroom, where she opened the closet to find a bouncing ball. Then a shoe. A few toy odds and ends. A pair of pants draped over a bar in the closet. A boot, a bat and a belt. Together, maybe, possibly, if you squinted, it might look something like a dragon, kinda-sorta, a little bit.

It was all in his head, said the boy’s mother. There was no dragon in the closet. And she went downstairs, but not before the boy saw …

Much as I loved the idea behind “There’s a Dragon in My Closet” and its wonderful theme of imagination, there was one thing that I wondered: will kids understand it enough?

With a catchy rhyme that starts out fun, author Dorothea Taylor tells the story of a boy and his dragon. Quite frankly, the story stays at a level of “fun” well enough, but some of the language seemed more adult-like than childish. Kids may not completely comprehend the story because of it, and that may be a distraction for an out-loud reader.

But never mind — come for the imagination, and stay for the artwork by Charly Palmer. I can’t say enough about that part of this book: it’s colorful, in sweeping-blendy tones and bold marks. Just — wow.

Keep your eyes on the little boys’ T-shirts, by the way. You’ll be charmed, and so will your 3- to 6-year-old. He’ll love “There’s a Dragon in My Closet,” and who could blame him?

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