By Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Arthur A. Levine Books, $16.99, 32 pages
Preschoolers and their older friends will enjoy Julia Donaldson’s latest treat, A Gold Star for Zog, and the vivid images created by illustrator Axel Scheffler. Zog, a young dragon, has difficulty with all the dragon-type skills he needs to master. As he strives with each new course to achieve a gold star, he needs reassurance and the help of a companionable little girl who urges him to keep trying. Donaldson’s fans continue to see The Gruffalo as her benchmark: the wonderfully humorous story of an imaginary beast that isn’t… well, maybe not quite imaginary. Kids upwards of two and a half relish the tale over and over. Zog is okay, but he lacks the Gruffalo’s universal appeal. The moral here is easily understood, and the happily-ever-after ending is satisfyingly conventional.
In recent years, dragons in juvenile books have become friendly rather than fearsome, none more memorable than Mercer Meyer’s exquisite illustrations in Jay William’s Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like. But only when dragons return to their mean, ugly role will characters like Zog prove unforgettable.
Reviewed By Jane Manaster