Dragonboy, by Fabio Napoleoni, opens with a little boy waking up in his bed “behind the farthest door down the hall”. In his room, we see a dragon costume as well as several stuffed animals of different varieties. The boy gets dressed in his dragon costume and greets his stuffed friends.
As you turn to the next page, his bedroom transitions to an open sea and in the middle of the sea is a boat with his now very much alive, “stuffed” animal friends.
The friends set off for an adventure together and land near a forest, which they decide to explore. Each creature explores something new or in a different way, and every animal is met with encouragement and positivity from Dragonboy.
Suddenly, the band of friends meet someone new – a very sad unicorn in a tree. The unicorn, Karley, is so sad because she is not good at things that a unicorn is supposed to be good at.
This causes the rest of the group to recognize all of the things they are supposed to be good at and are not good at and they begin to feel sad.
Dragonboy puts his positive spin on the situation by showing his friends, including his new friend Karley, that being different than expected is perfectly ok and that “we are already who we are supposed to be”. The friends celebrate each other and walk off into the sunset, hand in hand.
The book seems to end, as it begins, with Dragonboy in his bed “behind the farthest door down the hall”, perfectly content with who he is. On this page, we see all of his friends, back in their stuffed form, around his bedroom….but we also see his “new friend”, Karley, peaking out from his door…
On the final page, we are transported to Karley’s room “not so far away, behind a different door, down a different hall” where we find her to be a little girl with a unicorn costume and her own band of stuffed friends. She is asleep and perfectly content being “exactly who she was supposed to be”.
There are SO many things I love about this book. The first time I read it, I found myself with tears in my eyes, anxious to share it with any and all – both kids and adults alike! As a whole, it is FULL of inspiration. Dragonboy is positive and so comfortable in his own skin. He manages to shower his positivity on everyone around him. The message is that we are all different, we might not be who or what people expect us to be, and that is perfectly ok! Being exactly who you are is exactly what you are supposed to be.
Besides the heartwarming, inspiring message, there are so many ways this book can be used:
– When I read this with students, there was SO much discussion about who Karley really is. Is she real? Is she related to Dragonboy? They were pulling clues from pictures and the text – the oral discourse amongst students on this point alone was enough to warrant reading the book;
– I love the pages with different verbs describing the character’s movement – there’s a vocabulary and sensory images lesson all in one;
– Everyone can relate to the page of all the reasons why someone could be sad;
– Everytime I look at the pictures in this book, I find something else I hadn’t noticed before. There are little surprises and hidden mini messages everywhere. My personal favorites are the quotes on Dragonboy’s bed and above “Karley’s” bed.
I could go on and on and on. This is easily my new favorite book. I think our world would be a kinder, more forgiving place if everyone, big and small, would read it and internalize the author’s message.