We have recently started encouraging our daughters to get into the “old fashioned” concept of writing letters to pen-pals. J has started writing to a cousin and some of E’s closest friends will be moving away this summer. With that in mind, finding Josh Funk’s new book, dear Dragon, has been an absolute delight.
The story is that two young boys, George Slair and Blaise Dragomir, go to two different schools and have been assigned to be each other’s pen pals. Their entire classes have teamed up as a class project and their letters have to be written in rhyme as it is also for their poetry project. What they don’t know is that one school is for dragons and one school is for humans. Much hilarity ensues.
Young children probably will not get some of the word play in this book, but Funk knows that parents have to be entertained as well. Each spread has the recipient imagining what the other is writing about as well as the writer actually doing it. So when Blaise writes about skydiving off Falcor Peak, he is using his wings to soar down, but George imagines him jumping from an airplane with a parachute.
It is easy for an adult to see how the two misunderstand what the other is writing, but through ingenious illustrations a child can understand them too. The two boys develop a real friendship and plan to continue writing even after the project is over. When the two classes get together for a picnic all of the students are shocked that their pen pals are a different species, but it doesn’t change the fact that real friendships were made that go deeper than external appearances.
This is a marvelous book that helps kids see the value in “looking past physical differences to appreciate the person (or dragon) underneath.” Slayers are supposed to hate dragons and vice versa, but their clever teachers envision a world where everyone just gets along.