Saturday, July 13, 2019

Review - How to Catch a Dragon

How to Catch a Dragon
by Adam Wallace
illustrated by Andy Elkerton
Date: 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Do you have what it takes to catch a dragon?

The How to Catch kids are off again, this time trying to catch a dragon as they chase him through Chinese New Year celebrations! Set in China during the Spring Festival, otherwise known as Chinese New Year, the wily dragon will have to avoid trap after trap as the kids run through paper lanterns, red envelopes, fireworks, and more! Bonus Mandarin translation included in the back!

Dragons are a clever bunch,
They're difficult to catch.
You'll have to set the ultimate trap--
But have you met your match?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

There's something about these books that makes it really hard for me to like them (even though I really want to). I think it's mainly the meter of the rhyming text. It just doesn't work. And I think I know why:

But this New Year, we're on the watch
to pick up any trail.
Oh wait--is that...? I thought I saw...
It is! A real red DRAGON'S TAIL!

That last line has two syllables too many. And for what? It's a picture book. We can see the red tail. The words "real" and "red" could've been left out, and the verse would've been improved immensely. The meter is like this throughout the book, with random numbers of syllables. I don't really care if the last words rhyme or not; when the meter is this clumsy, it's difficult to read.

An issue I have with this title in particular is the forced diversity. The story appears to be set in China, in an old-fashioned village. The main character is Chinese... but the majority of his friends aren't. The kid states that every year, he and his friends decorate the street for the New Year. Are we to believe that there are a bunch of white, black, and Latinx kids living in a traditional country village in China that appears to have a 19th-century level of technology? (The whole thing almost comes across as a Westerner's idea of China, which is sort of bordering on the offensive.)

I keep hoping that the issues with the meter will be cleared up in these books, but each one I read seems to be exactly the same. There's more to good hymnal quatrains than simply rhyming the last word of the second and fourth lines. The way these are written keeps tripping up my tongue, making me hesitant to want to read them aloud to a child.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Wonderland for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.14 out of 5

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