Nickerbacher, The Funniest Dragon
by Terry John Barto

"Why did it take me forever to cross the road? 'I don't know,' she said. 'Because I'm always a-draggin.'"

Nickerbacher is a young dragon, and like most dragons, his father has dispatched him to guard a princess in a tall tower. Nickerbacher has other designs on his future however, not really preferring the gruesome, horrifying lifestyle and fancying himself to be a stand-up comedian someday. Princess Gwendolyn enjoys his comedy from the tower and pleads Nickerbacher to follow his dreams, but he fears the disapproval from his father. Prince Happenstance arrives to fight Nickerbacher and save Gwendolyn, but Nickerbacher has no interest in fighting, only telling jokes. While Happenstance insists on combat, Nickerbacher convinces the prince that he should follow his own dreams of playing baseball. Afterwards, Nickerbacher goes to the city to become a successful stand-up, earning the respect of the crowd including his own mother and father.

Stories for children that inspire them to follow their dreams and be themselves are plentiful, and so it's important for an entry in this genre to stand out from the crowd. This book succeeds by turning the dragon-and-princess premise on its head and by infusing the book with colorful characters with their own style and motivation. Almost every page has a hand-drawn illustration depicting the interplay between the different characters and brings them to life with a visual style as unique as each of their personalities. While this book doesn't reinvent the wheel, it also doesn't have to. Its message is both classic, modern, and perfect for children that are boisterous or love to put on a show, encouraging them to stay fearless and entertain the people around them.

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