Review: Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse

lovabye dragon

Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Randy Cecil

Once there was a girl who lived in a castle and longed to be friends with a dragon.  There was a dragon who lived far off in a cave who wanted a girl for a friend.  The girl was so sad that she wept silver tears of loneliness.  Those tears trickled all the way out of the castle and to the cave of the dragon where they awoke him.  The dragon followed the trail of silver back to the castle where he found the girl waiting for him.  The two became immediate friends, spending all of their time together.  Best friends forever.

Remarkably, Joosse does not feel the need to make the friendship between the girl and the dragon scandalous or attack it in any way.  The two of them long for one another, find one another, meet and are immediately friends, and it works.  A large part of why it works is Joosse’s writing which has them doing many things together but also explains their friendship clearly in passages like this:

On the outside, Girl is little.

On the outside, Dragon’s biggle.

But they’re just the same size

exactly the same size

in the middle.

Cecil’s illustrations are done in oils and have a wonderful richness and depth to them.  The palette is more blues and greys than many primary-colored picture books.  It plays to the sophistication of this story.  Often the girl is the only spot of bright color in her yellow dress.

This solid picture book offers a shimmering story of unlikely friendship that really works.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Holding on to Zoe by George Ella Lyon

holding on to zoe

Holding on to Zoe by George Ella Lyon

16-year-old Jules left home and started working at a Toyota factory once her baby Zoe was born.  The facility offered free baby care and a small apartment for them to live in together.  But her best friend and mother don’t seem to be accepting Zoe at all.  It’s almost as if they’d be happy to Jules just forgot about her baby altogether.  But Jules is determined to be a good mother to this perfect little baby.  It means that she has to juggle a lot of responsibilities and even more when she heads back to high school.  When she is forced to leave Toyota and return to living with her mother, things reach a crisis.  Throughout the book readers will piece together what is true in Jules’ life and what is not.  This is a credible and disturbing book about teen pregnancy and mental illness.

In reading others’ reviews of this book, I found that many had responded negatively to the book.  It is a unique mixture of teen pregnancy book in the beginning and mental illness in the end.  The mental illness portion comes slowly and readers will see tentacles of it early in the book if they look for them.  Jules’ pregnancy is handled honestly with both the baby’s father and Jules’ mother responding negatively to the news.  There is a beautiful sensitivity to the entire work that makes it poignant.

Jules is a protagonist with real issues.  As she struggles, the characters around her become all the more human.  Her mother moves from being a rather shadowy figure of doubt to someone who cares deeply and is unable to show her emotions.  Jules’ best friend Reba also shows her true colors as Jules struggles on.  Reba refuses to play along with Jules insisting that she see the truth. 

This book is sensitive, real and tragic.  It is an issue book that changes issues as the story continues, something that is unique and fascinating.  Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.