How does one change from being a hunter to a protector of animals? Becoming a pen pal with the animal is one way. In a series of letters, DEAR KOMODO DRAGON,  introduce young readers to the world’s largest lizard.

Reviews

Peppered with childlike humor and told from a kid’s perspective, this book is both enjoyable and informative for budding wildlife conservationists.
- Kirkus Reviews


Lots of children have pen pals but one little girl has a real-life dragon—a Komodo dragon—for a pen pal! Leslie plans to be a dragon hunter when she grows up. When she and Komodo become pen pals, the wise-cracking dragon adds a generous helping of humor to letters that are chock full of accurate, interesting facts. Leslie learns not only about the world’s largest lizard, but also about the dangers they face. As their friendship builds, will Leslie change the way she thinks about dragons?

Do you remember that teacher we had in elementary school who was always trying to make learning fun? Yes, you remember. I thought you would. Sometimes, the fun was actually fun. Sometimes, not so much. Personally, I’d rather just plow through the math without also wishing I felt as entertained as that hopeful teacher hoped I would.

That’s why Dear Komodo Dragon surprised me! It’s definitely an educational book. You’ll find zoology, conservation, and math in its pages, and you could spin a lesson about letter-writing out of it, too. Arbordale provides substantial curricular support for their books. There’s a 30-page Teaching Activity Guide for Dear Komodo Dragon, perfect for classroom or homeschool use, and the book itself includes a 4-page For Creative Minds section as well.

But it’s still a story! Leslie and Komo, her dragon pen pal, both have relatable personalities, and their exchange is light-hearted and interesting (despite being informative!). You’ll realize how much you’ve been drawn into the story when you come to the plot twist just before the end! (No spoilers here!)

Laurie Allen Klein’s illustrations, like the text, are realistic but still imaginative, and provide depth to the characterizations and supporting detail for the information in the text. I especially appreciated the added dimension she provided in, for example, the labeled drawings of  various kinds of dragons displayed on pages 6-7. It’s evidence that every opportunity, every space and moment in the book, was used to add value for the reader.

I think my grade-school self would have welcomed this book with relief and interest. Dear Komodo Dragon is both fiction and nonfiction, a science story that deserves to be called both “science” and “story.” Bright pictures, clean text, engaging characters, and that plot twist I mentioned above all come together to make a good day in the classroom, or in your favorite reading nook at home.

Dear Komodo Dragon and its teaching resources are available directly from Arbordale Publishing, and also on Amazon in paperback, hard cover, and Kindle editions.

Melinda Johnson: moretothestorypicturebookreviews

Backmatter description

This fictional story includes a 4-page For Creative Minds section in the back of the book and a 30-page cross-curricular Teaching Activity Guide online. Dear Komodo Dragon is vetted by experts and designed to encourage parental engagement. Its extensive back matter helps teachers with time-saving lesson ideas, provides extensions for science, math, and social studies units, and uses inquiry-based learning to help build critical thinking skills in young readers. The Spanish translation supports ELL and dual-language programs. The interactive ebook reads aloud in both English and Spanish with word highlighting and audio speed control to promote oral language skills, fluency, pronunciation, text engagement, and reading comprehension.