King Jack and the Dragon
By Peter Bently and Helen Oxenbury
Dial Books for Young Readers; $17.99
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What it's about: One evening in the park, a small boy, Jack, fancies himself a king and enlists two cohorts, Zack and baby Casper. The trio builds a castle of everyday objects and squares off against dragons and other beasts. After vowing to spend the night in their fortress, Zack and Casper are whisked away by parents, or "giants." Jack is left alone until he encounters a four-legged beast. Suspecting a dragon, he slips out of his tent. To discover what he finds, you must read this delightful little book.
Why read it: The plot is not what makes the book memorable -- it is the construction. From the title page to the back flap, each detail is edited to perfection. The rhymes in the text are simple but not obvious. The rhythm is constant, not languid, as it is punctuated by exclamations, dialogue and onomatopoeia. Even the fonts of the words vary; the larger the print, the more emphatically the word should be read. The result of all these elements is a thoroughly enjoyable read-aloud book for children and parents. The illustrations by Helen Oxenbury add to the relaxed, effortless feel. Loosely hatched ink and thin layers of watercolor reveal an intimate look into the mind of a child. Shadows spill over the darkening sky, and the reader senses the fear of the encroaching night.
-- Hadley Newton,
Special to the Star-Telegram