My Dad is a Dragon
written by Damon Young
Illustrated by Peter Carnavas
reviewed by Maria Parenti-Baldey
This is the latest in a collaboration which has resulted in six titles each featuring a special member of the family, Nanna, Pop, Mum, Sister and Brother have all had their turn with amazingly, magnificent experiences and now it is Dad’s turn. Damon Young has subtly linked four very different Dads. He has contrasted three normal ordinary Dads with Dragon Dad who does many crazy things but is perfect in that he gives what every child yearns for – time with their Dad.
Each of these Dad experiences show their integral family role. Each Dads’ scene contrasts yet echoes Dragon Dad’s. We see serious hobbies, serious jobs and clumsy Dads whereas Dragon Dad and his daughter are playing in his chocolate gold coin collection, singing opera with the donkey while his daughter watches on or eating hot fire breathing chilli, while his daughter sits on the donkey with a fire extinguisher at the ready. Other scenes show fantastical food experiences, afternoon exercise routines and finally bedtime. All these different Dad experiences are as important as each other.
Peter Carnavas’ delightful first layer of images matches the text story to support young readers. However, peer beyond this layer to see a second layer of visual elements. Peter has given each Dad an animal helper to make the reader stifle a giggle. Look for the stork with the chequered flag, the echidna sitting in a shoe and the bear holding the swords. While these animal characters are not in the text, they enhance this charming story. Picture books are created for both adults and children, which is why the picture layers have become more sophisticated. Peter has provided a third layer of meaning with this set of curious characters. Hint: Follow the bear’s eyes, holding the swords on the roof. Hint two: Count how many are sleeping snuggled with the snoozing stork.
Other parts to appreciate in the story are the white/subdued backgrounds of the ordinary Dads contrasting with Dragon Dad’s full colour double page spreads and full settings, showing him as unique and the main focus of the story. The endpapers give an insight into the relationship between Dragon Dad and donkey, such as their close proximity and donkey’s entertaining facial expressions add meaning. Damon uses visually amusing alliteration to allow kids to act out bouncing buggies, revving racers, busy bridges, tough trolleys, tired tots, whopping wings etc., His use of outside-the-square language for this early age group is excitingly brave – synonyms for types of swords: sabres and scimitars of old, hauling, hoarding, colossal and banquet will have kids building general knowledge further nurturing an inquisitive love of books.
Congratulations Damon Young and Peter Carnavas for a fire-breather of a book.
University of Queensland Press 2019 Hardback Picture Book $24.95 ISBN 978 0 7022 6049 0