Henry and the Chalk Dragon
Author: Jennifer Trafton
Illustrator: Benjamin Schipper
Published April 4th, 2017 by Rabbit Room Press
Summary: In the town of Squashbuckle, just about anything can happen, and when Henry Penwhistle draws a mighty Chalk Dragon on his door, the dragon does what Henry least expects–it runs away. Now Henry’s art is out in the world for everyone to see, and it’s causing trouble for him and his schoolmates, Oscar and Jade. If they don’t stop it, the entire town could be doomed! To vanquish the threat of a rampaging Chalk Dragon, Sir Henry Penwhistle, Knight of La Muncha Elementary School, is going to have to do more than just catch his art–he’s going to have to let his imagination run wild. And THAT takes bravery.
About the Author: Jennifer Trafton is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Dial, 2010) which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and was a nominee for Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award and the National Homeschool Book Award. Henry and the Chalk Dragon arose from her lifelong love of drawing and her personal quest for the courage to be an artist. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where, in addition to pursuing her love of art and illustration, she teaches writing classes, workshops, and summer camps in a variety of schools, libraries, and homeschool groups in the Nashville area, as well as online classes to kids around the world. To learn more, and to download free materials, visit jennifertrafton.com.
Review: I love any book that promotes imagination, and it isn’t too often that you find a novel that is all about keeping your imagination. Henry’s story is a Pleasantville one–he lives in a boring town and takes boring classes, but when he closes his door, his imagination goes wild. It is when his imaginative Chalk Dragon escapes and wrecks havoc on his school does the power of an imagination really start to show.
On a side note, and only some of you will understand this, but the cover of Henry and the Chalk Dragon is matte and SO SOFT!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Along with a read aloud, the text gives lots of opportunities to discuss imagination, art, and creative writing. Also, chunking the text to fit the most opportune times will lead to some great writing and art prompts.
Discussion Questions: How did the principal end up the way he is? How do we know that he was not that way when he was younger?; Was Henry’s class/school doing the best thing to promote Vegetable Week?; Which adults understand Henry and his imagination? Which hinder him?; How does the power of Henry’s imagination cause havoc on the school? How does it save the school?; What does Henry’s chalk dragon coming to life symbolize in the grand scheme of things?; What is the lesson that the author is trying to teach us about imagination and growing up?
Flagged Passages: “Henry recognized the curve of those horns and the arrow-tipped tail. He recognized every sharp green flick of scaly skin, every zigzag of the bony spines running down the creature’s back. It was his dragon. Just as he had imagined it. Just as he had drawn it. Here it was, standing in front of him! There was something brand new in the world, and he had put it there!
There is a kind of fear that squeezes your heart with an icy hand and freezes you into a popsicle. But there is another kind of fear that is thrilling and hot, that makes your fingers tingle and your toes tickle each other inside your shoes until you want to leap over the Empire State Building. Henry was afraid with this kind of fear, and it felt good.
The dragon stared back at him–up and down, from his sneakers to his shiny helmet. It did not look afraid of Henry. It spread its wings proudly. It stretched its scaly neck as high as it would go. Its mouth widened slowly into a dragonish grin.
How long had Henry been waiting for this moment? Here he was, in his shiny suit of armor, with a sword in his hand. And here was a real live dragon–a dragon who could knock the house down with a few flicks of its tail, who could eat his mother for breakfast, who could send a ball of fire bouncing down the street. He knew exactly what he had to do.” (p. 32-33)
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**