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More conversation than narrative, this charming book poses all manner of questions worth pondering.  Would you rather…tickle a monkey or dance with goats?  The more harrowing questions, like Would you rather be… swallowed by a fish or sat on by a rhinoceros? are tempered by Burningham’s wonderfully silly drawings.

Equal parts hilarity and exciting adventure, this 1948 classic chapter book tells the tale of a boy on a quest to rescue an overworked baby dragon from an island bristling with wild beasts.  The first in a trilogy that includes Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland.

Ben is thrilled to receive a penguin as a present, but not so thrilled that it doesn’t seem to talk. He tries everything to make Penguin speak—tickling, funny faces, silly songs and even standing on his head. When all of that fails to get a reaction, he resorts to more frustrated measures like prodding, imitating and ignoring, finally firing Penguin off to outer space strapped to a rocket, only to have him return, silent as ever. Things devolve from bad to worse until finally, a lion eats Ben “for being too noisy.” Penguin comes to the rescue, biting Lion hard on the nose. Ben sees the light literally and figuratively as he flies out of Lion’s mouth and finally realizes that even though Penguin can’t talk, he is able to express feeling for Ben in his own wonderful way. We see a dialogue bubble filled with images of all the times they’ve spent together and at last Ben knows that penguin loves him.

Quirky, funny and charming. Dunbar chooses her words and brush strokes carefully, which concentrates everything and packs more punch. Ben, Penguin and Lion reside over clean white backgrounds, focusing the eye on what matters most. An entertaining tale that in the end, is about understanding and appreciating one another.

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