|Image from Amazon.com|
It’s Mei Lin’s birthday at school. After the teacher reads a book about dragons, the students head to the art room to make decorations for the birthday celebration. Mei Lin shouts, “Look at me! I’m Birthday Dragon!” Each child contributes an element to the dragon, “boink-boink eyes,” “a dragon-fire nose,” “a long, long, long tail.” Then the dragon comes to life as the children step inside the costume and go “stomp, bomp-tromping away” to outdoor recess. In a fantasy sequence, the dragon climbs, meanders, and swims, through mountains, forests, and oceans, until recess is over and the children run inside for Birthday Dragon’s snack!
The illustrations are colorful and feature multi-cultural children of all races. The brush strokes are broad and flowing, reminiscent of Chinese brush painting. This comparison is most apparent in pages that feature the Birthday Dragon’s imaginary adventures.
The text is full of onomatopoeias, which makes it a fun book to read out loud. Although the plot isn’t very developed and there’s really no conflict, the playful text and illustrations will appeal to younger children.
This is a great book to read for Chinese New Year or to celebrate Chinese culture (after all, this is the year of the Dragon). It’s also a nice addition to a dragon storytime if you want to include Asian-style dragons, as well as the classic Western fire-breathing dragon.
After reading the book, grab a long rope or ribbon and have the kids pretend to be a dragon. Give each child a chance to be the head or tail if they wish.
If you have time for a craft, try making one of these Chinese Dragons. Kaboose Crafts uses crepe streamers (try attaching the head to a stick to make it easier to carry), Free Kids Crafts uses plastic cups to make a puppet, and Web Holidays makes a dragon with accordion folds. Also check out the dragon paper bag puppet in my post for The Knight and the Dragon.
Mei Lin and her imaginative classmates are also featured in the books, The Squiggle and Someone Says.