by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Valeria Docampo
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
ABOUT THE BOOK
Not all princesses are made of sugar and spice--some are made of funnier, fiercer stuff.
Princess Amanita laughs in the face of danger. Brakeless bicycles, pet scorpions, spiky plants--that's her thing. So when quiet Prince Florian gives her roses, Amanita is unimpressed . . . until she sees their glorious thorns! Now she must have rose seeds of her own. But when huge, honking noses grow instead, what is a princess with a taste for danger to do?
For readers seeking a princess with pluck comes an independent heroine who tackles obstacles with a bouquet of sniffling noses. At once lovely and delightfully absurd, here's a story to show how elastic ideas of beauty and princesses can be.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Averbeck’s first book, IN A BLUE ROOM, was a Charlotte Zolotow silver medal winner. His illustrations have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, accompanying Newbery-winner Linda Sue Park’s serial novel, A LONG WALK TO WATER. OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON! is his fourth book. His fifth book, THE MARKET BOWL, will be coming out in 2013.
This book makes me laugh. Little Dragons antics remind me so much of a toddler, who loves to play but who doesn't like to get cleaned up. I seriously admire his mother's patience. The illustrations are delightful, full of color and life. The splashes of bright orange and red for the fire are impossible to ignore. This book is also perfect for helping children learn about solving problems. When Little Dragon's fire goes out at first he tries to solve the problem himself. When that doesn't work, he goes to his mother and she provides the help he needs. I also appreciate the ending where Little Dragon has learned the value of prevention. The ongoing refrain of "Oh, No" makes this perfect for an interactive storytime. I highly recommend this fun book.
A conversation between Dashka Slater and Jim Averbeck
DASHKA: Hi Jim. Here we are making another stop on our Dragons & Dangerous Princess blog tour. I’m finding that we’re getting quite a few questions about traditional and non-traditional gender roles in picture books. Do you think of Little Dragon is a “typical boy?”
JIM: In OH NO LITTLE DRAGON! I tried to create a character that is a typical boy, but not a stereotypical boy. I've seen some stories recently that portray boys as little monsters, but don't necessarily go deeper to plumb the more emotional side of boys. We get all the noise and destruction, but not much introspection or vulnerability. In OH NO LITTLE DRAGON! on the surface, it appears that Little Dragon just wants his fire back, so he can continue his destructive rampage. But in fact, what he's worried about is losing his mother's love, which he mistakenly believes is tied to his fiery abilities. So that's what I wanted to say- that even the most destructive boys have a depth of emotion and a need for love.
What about you? How did you approach gender and gender roles in DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER?
DASHKA: I’ve been getting kudos for writing a non-traditional princess book, but I have to say that I didn’t actually set out to write a non-traditional anything. I just created a princess who appealed to me -- someone feisty and adventurous and a little bit bossy. Princess Amanita is unconventional in her taste in plants and pets, but she does like beautiful dresses as much as the next princess -- in fact, Valeria Docampo has given her a wardrobe to die for. And by the end of the story, Amanita widens her interests a bit. She still likes dangerous things, but she also develops an appreciation for flowers that smell nice and for friends like Prince Florian, who is a far more gentle soul.
JIM: This blog has a geographic theme. So, in a map of the real world, where would you place Amanita's kingdom? What clues point to that location? (And if you are wondering where Little Dragon lives, the answer is, of course, Fire Island.)
DASHKA: I’d think it would have to be a Mediterranean climate, given the plants that grow in Amanita’s garden -- lots of succulents and cacti and thistles, but also (stink) lilies and roses.
Speaking of travel, didn’t Little Dragon have his origins in China? Do you often travel to such far-flung places?
JIM: I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have traveled the world. It started in college. My brother worked for an airline, and before President Reagan began taxing middle class employee benefits, I was able to travel first-class for free on passes from my brother. So when everyone else went to Florida for spring break, I went to England, France and Germany. (And it cost me less!) I spent 3-1/2 years in the Peace Corps in Cameroon. It’s my goal to touch foot in all seven continents before I die. I have three more to go. I’ve been to China, Sao Tomé, Nigeria, Libya (to see a total solar eclipse), Greece, Sicily, Italy, Spain, Malta, Taiwan, and, in answer to your next question...
DASHKA: Where in the world would be your favorite place to write?
JIM: Bali. I actually spent time there illustrating a book for Linda Sue Park called A LONG WALK TO WATER. Bali is so beautiful and peaceful. Where would you go?
DASHKA: Cornwall. I love the wild coastline there, and the ambience of Arthurian legend. My ideal writing day begins with an ocean swim (yes, even in those chilly Atlantic waters) and ends with a country ramble and a pint. Plus there’s lots of wonderful children’s book history there, as it’s the setting for much of the Dark is Rising series.
If you were going to make a pilgrimage to any children’s literature related place, where would it be?
JIM: I think I’d go to Middle Earth (aka New Zealand). Peter Jackson made it look so inviting. And then I could just pop over to Australia and I’d have only two continents left.
DASHKA: Does Little Dragon like to travel?
JIM: In his mind he travels back to his Nordic homeland and terrorizes Viking villages and castles. He likes family vacations to Myrtle Beach, NC. What about Amanita?
DASHKA: Amanita loves to get on her brakeless bicycle and pedal off in search of strange plants. But while she loves to read about dangerous jungles and steaming volcanoes, she isn’t sure she actually wants to visit them.
Now tell me about the book tour process. Has anything surprising happened in relation to OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON?
JIM: I’ve been reading it at school visits lately and was so happy with the way kids have taken to this character. They love to draw Little Dragon (and I have a million drawings to prove it) and I was surprised with how they responded to it when it is read aloud. I thought they’d get into calling out “oh no!” which is a repeated phrase in the book. But it turns out they really get into making “phooshing” noises, which is the sound of Little Dragon spewing his fire. What about with you? Any surprises as you’ve been out promoting the book?
DASHKA: Two surprises. One is how much boys like the book. It’s fun watching their faces change from skeptical to enthusiastic in the course of a reading -- and even more fun to watch a boy leave a bookstore with a princess book under his arm. The other is the terrific dangerous plants kids keep inventing. I’ve posted some of them on this tumblr.
Does Little Dragon take part in any literary feuds? Is there anyone he won’t share a book shelf with?
JIM: Little Dragon takes on all comers with his fierce and awesome firepower, but he prefers to stay away from those with flammable bodies or clothing. He keeps his distance from Fancy Nancy and also the stinky cheese man.
What about Princess Amanita? Is there anyone she prefers to see on another shelf?
DASHKA: Well, I have to admit that she doesn’t have much to say to Disney princesses. They never want to do anything she wants to do. She also tends to have trouble with Olivia. Both of them want to be in charge and they always end up arguing.