Heath McKenzie, This Hungry Dragon. Scholastic, May 2016, 24pp., $16.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760151508
A plump, pink dragon, with small wings and a solid stomach, feels a little ‘peckish’. This feeling soon morphs into feeling ‘famished’ and ‘starving’, then ‘gorging’ and ‘guzzling’, and ultimately ‘bulging’ and ‘queasy’. Heath McKenzie’s double-page spreads, with ample white space, eventually give way to pages with dark maroon backgrounds as readers take a peek into the full contents of the dragon’s ballooning stomach.
This Hungry Dragon could be digested simply as a salutary lesson into the painful effects of over-eating. In fact, the final page makes this message explicit: ‘This sorry dragon learned a lesson true: Be careful what you eat, it might disagree with you’. But the story lends itself to other purposes too. The book’s rhyming text can be coupled with music’s 4/4 time signature. Viewed this way, McKenzie’s tale offers an excellent tool for music lessons. Children could clap the four-beat rhythm as the text is read aloud, and aspects of tempo and dynamics could also be matched to the story. This approach finds a natural culmination in the book’s penultimate double-page spread where a ‘belly band’ forms within the dragon’s stomach: ‘This rowdy band played as loudly as it could. The music bounced and gurgled just like belly music should.’ Opportunities then arise naturally for children to create their own rowdy, percussive instruments.
This picture book introduces words that may unfamiliar to young children, but the story’s linear development combined with the illustrations depicting the dragon’s burgeoning size provide a meaningful context for the words, making them readily understandable.
For ages 4+
Reviewed by Tessa Wooldridge