Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dragons' Dietary Delight

Scattered throughout my home are my TBR piles prominently on display much like pieces of furniture.  I am one of those people, when presented with gifts at my birthday or a holiday, who like to open each one slowly relishing the moment.  For that reason I have many wonderful books stacked waiting to be read which should have been enjoyed months, weeks or even days ago.

One of those titles I was urged to pick up and read right away by Ame Dyckman, author of her first book, Boy + Bot (Alfred A. Knopf), with illustrations by Dan Yaccarino, on Twitter was Dragons Love Tacos (Dial Books for Young Readers), by Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri  (Amy's book is on the top of my picture book TBR pile.)  Yes, the hoot and holler duo, that brought readers Those Darn Squirrels and  Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door are back.  From a tree-lined backyard with forest critters to one filled with dragons of fantasy, they take flight, fly high and well.

An unseen narrator begins the tale as readers view a boy and his dog in his bedroom decorated with everything a la dragon:

Hey, kid!
Did you know that dragons love tacos?
They love beef tacos and chicken tacos.
They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.

This narrator goes on to propose reasons for this love; the last of three has a distinct air of mystery.  Then the speaker, like a news reporter, moves to the scene of a dragon emerging from a favorite taco take-out shop, asking for answers, reasons why.  Meanwhile the young dragon lover, Robbie, and his furry friend are laying out the fixings for concocting salsa only to discover from the narrator, no less, dragons do not appreciate spicy salsa.

I guess anyone would hate spicy salsa if it made your ears smoke, sparks come from your nose or gave you a stomach ache.  But what dragons do love, in addition to tacos, is parties.  And the best party of all is...you guessed it...a taco party.

With a flurry of preparations completed, oodles and oodles of tacos, getting rid of all the hot sauce and party decorations, dog and boy bask in the fruits of their labors as dragons converge. With the gala event in full swing the voice points to something tiny and green that's been missed.  Yikes!  Holy smokes...

Adam Rubin's use of a narrator makes readers feel as though they are sitting down to hear the words of storyteller; it adds to the intimacy inviting readers to partake in the world of boy, dog and dragons.  When the humor and surprises come it's more potent when shared in this manner.  Listing reasons in groups of three, the repetition of phrases with a single word change for emphasis and the word choices reflecting a conversation among friends,

But wait!...
...oh boy...
...Just remember:...

combine to make this narrative a surefire winner.

Watercolor, gouache and color pencil in the resourceful hands of artist, Daniel Salmieri, most certainly spice up the laughter factor. With endpapers covered in miniature tacos and a title page picturing a silver platter, lid lifted by a purple dragon hand to reveal a delicious looking single taco, readers are welcomed into the world of taco.  Title verso and dedication page spread to include a view of the land of dragon with the Taco Cave in the foreground.

Salmieri's attention to detail encourages readers to pause and grin.  In the boy's bedroom dragons decorate the lampshade next to a bed with medieval towers for bedposts, Kodi, meaning helpful, on the dog's dish, dragons on the dog's collar, a dragon arm reaching into a page giving the thumb's up sign and a taco calendar hanging on a dragon's cave wall are only some of the numerous little extras he provides.  The tiny arms and legs supporting his characters' bodies and the facial expressions on all are so much fun.

Together Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri have in Dragons Love Tacos a book guaranteed to generate giggles and bursts of mindless mirth.  Please follow the link to Daniel Salmieri's website embedded in his name to view more illustrations from this book.  In case you're interested this post was written while consuming not one, not two, not even three but five tacos. (The shells were tiny. Trust me.)

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