There’s A Dragon In My Closet – by Dorothea Taylor, illustrated by Charly Palmer

 There’s A Dragon In My Closet – by Dorothea Taylor, illustrated by Charly Palmer, Simon & Schuster, 9781534476462, c2017, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Vibrant acrylic paintings are the stars of this playful first person narrative about a young Black boy who is pretty sure a dragon lives in his closet. Sometimes the dragon does nice things, like leaving money under his pillow for a missing tooth or cleaning up a messy bedroom. Other times, he’s a convenient scapegoat when someone’s been naughty: knocking over a flower pot or eating an entire jar of cookies. It’s an everyman story about an imaginary friend who seems real to the protagonist, even after Mom reveals that the dragon may only be a pile of clothes and a baseball bat. I appreciated that the story addressed such an ordinary childhood experience, namely a big imagination and the fun to be had in indulging it. The little boy and the dragon are very relatable. The main character has an energy and loose-limb casualness that looks exactly like a real boy and his middle-class house has a lot of identifiable objects: sport-themed bed sheets, a faithful basset hound, child-created masterpieces on the walls. In every scene, the child wears a T-shirt with text that relates to the story; it’s so easy to imagine that he loves these shirts and has family who indulge him with new ones on a regular basis. And the dragon, when we finally get a look at him, looks as cuddly and loving as the dog, but with enough girth and pointed teeth to be awesome.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The singsong couplets that accompany the story were forced and full of vocabulary that detracts from the authenticity of the art. The boy laughs as he imagines seeing the dragon dancing, “Panicked, my mom rushed up the stairs to see what was the matter. At first she thought I must have rabies, my mouth was foaming with toothpaste lather.” The text stays in that vein; it’s often stilted and sounds like a grown-up speaking, not a kid. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  This is a positive and relatable story about a Black boy and his family, so I would recommend it to those looking for more balanced representation in picture books. It could be a good read aloud for children aged 3-6 who have imaginary friends; adults sometimes request books with this plot device.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

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

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 8, 2020

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