By Barbara Gruener
Jodi Moore’s When a Dragon Moves In is a whimsical summer sizzler about the antics of a dragon who moves into the sandcastle of a lucky little lad. While his family busily goes about their beach business, the boy and his dragon have all sorts of adventuresome fun roaming around and roasting marshmallows, busting bullies and braving the waves. Despite his insistence on the dragon’s existence, this creative, clever kid cannot convince his family that the dragon is real.
And when mischief starts to happen, the boy decides to send his dragon packing “until he learns some manners.” That’s my favorite part because it’s the perfect segue into a character chat with my students. What should a dragon’s manners look like, sound like, feel like at the beach? At home? At school? In the community? Who will teach him those manners? How will the boy know that the dragon has learned his new skill set? Then will the dragon be back?
The eye-poppingly expressive illustrations by Howard McWilliam bring the text to life in such a magical way that I actually wanted to believe! You can also use this gem as a springboard for a discussion about real versus pretend. Find out if your audience thinks that the dragon really exists. Why or why not? If they ascertain that the dragon is imaginary, then is the little boy being dishonest? What, if anything, is the difference between pretending and lying?
After reading this dragon tale, ask your children to share their favorite sun and sand adventures out loud using as many sparkle words as they can. Then, fire up their imaginations by encouraging them to mesh fantasy with fact as they script a summertime story of their own. Encourage families to spend the day together at their favorite beach so that they can draw from all five of their senses.
Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen! Happy summertime!
Barbara Gruener is a school counselor at Westwood Elementary in Friendswood, TX, a winner of the 2009 CEP National School of Character Award. For more information on Westwood’s program, visit its website.