Title: Not Your Typical Dragon
Author: Dan Bar-el
Illustrator: Tim Bowers
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (February 7, 2013)
Audience: ages 3 and up
Summary: Seven year old Crispin Blaze is a dragon, and everyone knows that typical dragons breathe fire. But Crispin isn’t your typical dragon. When Crispin opens his mouth to breathe, anything but fire comes out! Feeling dejected at his repeated failures to live up to his father’s expectations, Crispin runs away. Alone and despondent, he meets a new friend, a skinny “knight in training,” who is also feeling similar pressures to be “typical.” Together they learn that being different is not so bad and learning to embrace your own special gifts is one of the secrets to good self-esteem. This is a book for any child who can’t help feeling a little bit different and the adults who have the privilege of helping them accept and grow into the amazing person they were created to be!
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Set in the mythical and magical world of dragons and knights, this book creates a parallel to the human condition of living up to expectations set forth by society, families, and parents. The artwork is whimsical and colorful but filled with enough realism to make it believable and fun. The main characters, Crispin, the dragon, and Sir George, the knight, both struggle with their apparent shortcomings to live up to “typical” expectations. In both families, the fathers are the dominant parent who voice the expectations and exhibit disappointment in their respective sons while the mothers stay in the background offering only a faint voice of reason. Although stereotypical in some families, it is sad to see a father-son relationship so wrapped up in the son’s ability to perform. Redemption comes at the end of the story when Crispin steps in to save his family during an emergency with his “not so typical” abilities and his father recognizes that his son is indeed “something special.”
Theological Conversation Partners:
The Bible is filled with stories of people who were “not your typical” leaders but yet were called by God to do amazing things. Abraham, a nomad, was called to become the father of nations. Moses, a reluctant speaker, was called to be a leader of God’s people who would lead them from slavery to freedom. Esther, a common girl, was called to save God’s people from annihilation. Prophets, like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea, were called to be God’s messengers of hope.
When Jesus chose his disciples, he didn’t go to the synagogue and look for the “typical.” Instead he went to the seashore, the streets, and the countryside to find ordinary men with “not your typical” abilities who would be called to become the messengers of the Gospel.
The apostle Paul recognized the many different gifts and abilities that are needed in God’s kingdom here on earth. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…” I Corinthians 12:1-11. Affirming the gifts and abilities of everyone is essential in the faith community today as we strive to build up the body of Christ and share the Good News of the Gospel with the world.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Crispin felt “different” because he couldn’t breathe fire like typical dragons. Name a time when you have felt “different” because you couldn’t do something like everyone else? Who made you feel different? Who helped you feel better? How?
- Crispin ran away when he felt inadequate as a dragon. What do you do when you feel different or inadequate in something?
- Crispin’s new friend Sir George tried to help him learn new skills and feel better about himself. Who helps you learn and grow?
- How can you be a friend to someone is feeling different? How can you help others find their special God-given abilities?
This review is written by regular contributor Krista Lovell.
Not Your Typical Dragon by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.