What Is the Story of Dracula? – written by Michael Burgan, illustrated by David Malan

 What Is the Story of Dracula? – written by Michael Burgan, illustrated by David Malan, Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 9781524788469, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: n/a – Nonfiction

What did you like about the book?  Who HQ has expanded dramatically in the last 18 years and kids still clamor for them!  The latest series explores famous pop culture icons in “What Is the Story of?” giving young readers a glimpse into both history and the creative process behind some of their favorite, or their parents’ favorite characters.

What Is the Story of Dracula? does an excellent job of putting the character in context to give readers a foothold in the world of reality; Burgan explains Stoker’s inspirations spanning from folktales and legends around the globe to the well-known historical figure Vlad the Impaler. Subsequent chapters then succinctly summarize the actual book Dracula, quickly introducing the method of storytelling, the characters, and key points of the plot. The latter half of this book is dedicated to how Dracula (and vampires inspired by him) grew beyond a character in a single story to reach fame on stage, on the silver screen, in many more books, and even in unexpected places like the beloved Muppets!

Burgan’s choice of text and layout of the book make this a quick and easy read for the intended audience; this is one of the main claims to fame Who HQ holds and one of the biggest reasons so many kids love these books. Everything is presented in clear words and no assumption of prior knowledge on the main topic, putting everyone on equal footing, but then delves into smaller facts that can surprise even adult readers.* Malan’s accompanying illustrations portray a variety of information and swing from accurate drawings of people and locations to re-imaginings of book scenes.  While not the star of the title, these illustrations add both atmosphere and all-important breaks to chop up lengthier text blocks.

Altogether, this is a succinct history, as promised, and will make an excellent addition to youth libraries.

*For example, did you know that in one stage production of Dracula in London, the theatre had to hire nurses to care for patrons who fainted in terror during the production?  I certainly didn’t!

Anything you didn’t like about it?  Just one thing and it’s the smallest complaint you could possibly think of. Much of the book makes great use of each page, including at least one and sometimes even two illustrations per two-page spread and only leaving white space at the end of a chapter. One info box (a cut-away in the middle of a chapter to provide an aside of indirectly-related facts) leaves an entire 2.5 inches of white space; plenty of room for an illustration but not even close to a folly big enough to bring this book down. This small issue jumps out only because the rest of the book is so well-composed.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Any fans of the Who HQ books will love this title as well. You can also direct young fans of the “horror” genre here so they can learn even more about how monsters have been terrorizing audiences long before they were born.

Who should buy this book? Highly recommended to all libraries with an elementary collection.

Where would you shelve it ? J nonfiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?No.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA

Date of reviewAugust 23, 2020    

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