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“That was the trouble with being Danny’s friend—you were prey to his sudden enthusiasms. The young iguana’d never really had a chance.” –Dragonbreath
by Ursula Vernon
Danny Dragonbreath is the only dragon in his school, and he isn’t the best student. He waited until he was on the bus to complete his writing assignment. Because his best friend Wendell, who is a great student, couldn’t help Danny with his assignment, Danny decided to make up some facts. Danny is filled with “righteous indignation” when his teacher gives him an F and tells him he must redo his writing assignment. Danny decides to go see his uncle, who is a sea serpent, for help. And of course, Danny takes Wendell along for the swim.
Even though Danny learns some cool facts about the ocean creatures, the facts are interwoven with fantasy, which may make it hard for readers to determine what is real information and what is fiction. For example, octopi can change their color to blend in with their surroundings, but the octopus Danny meets becomes stripped and then plaid.
Danny’s predicament leads to some hilarious and surprising events. Danny’s story is told in a unique style that blends a graphic novel and fiction. The text is broken up with illustrations and also has several graphic novel scenes with speech balloons. The blend of text and pictures will help keep reluctant readers engaged in the story. The comic-style illustrations are mostly black and white, but also have a pop of green.
Readers will relate to Danny, who fearlessly takes Wendell on a crazy adventure. The story is written in a conversational, humorous tone that is funny and engaging. Although the vocabulary is easy to read, the author uses some complex sentences as well as amazing descriptive language. Dragonbreath deals with bullying, friendship, and the importance of completing schoolwork correctly. Dragonbreath is an imaginative story that will make readers laugh. Those who enjoyed ridiculous, humorous, adventurous stories like Dragonbreath should also try The Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry.
- When a school bully takes Danny’s potato salad, the potato salad attacks him. “After a few minutes, there was a scream from across the lunchroom. It was the exact sound that a young Komodo dragon might make when he had just been stabbed in the hand with a plastic fork by a plate of recalcitrant potato salad.”
- Danny’s uncle will not let him go near Atlantis because the mermen “want to make sure we don’t get any closer. As soon as somebody shows up and puts them in danger of being the found city of Atlantis, they throw him in the dungeon and feed him to the lobsters.”
- A giant octopus grabs Wendell. Danny bites the octopus, who then lets go of Wendell.
- A huge squid captures Danny and Wendell. “Danny felt terrible. Mostly because the giant tentacle wrapped around him was making his rips creak with strain, but there was definitely some guilt in there too. He’d dragged his best friend off on a wild adventure, and now they were going to get hideously smooshed and eaten, possibly in that order. . . Wendell saw the beak moving toward him, and his scream promptly climbed up the register until bats could probably hear [it].” In order to free the two, Danny tries to breathe fire, and “a massive bubble of steam boiled out of Danny’s mouth and smacked the squid directly in the eye.” The squid lets go of the two boys, and then a whale rams into the squid, causing the squid to swim away.
Drugs and Alcohol
- A bully calls Danny a “dorkbreath” and Wendell a “nerd.”
- Wendell calls the bully a “festering pustule.”
- Wendell calls Danny an “idiot.”
- Danny’s potato salad has human qualities, and when Danny tries to eat it, “the potato salad transferred its attention to what is perceived as a new threat, and shook the form menacingly.” Later the potato salad “flattened itself stealthily against the plate, fork at the ready.”
- Danny and Wendell eat a mint that allows them to breathe underwater. The mint “tasted fizzy. He (Danny) felt as if spiders were dancing inside his lungs, wearing mint-flavored tap shoes.”