Pros: Great illustrations, imaginative dragon poems, wonderful introduction to fantasy
Cons: Don't read if you didn't or don't have a dragon phase
Whoever says fifth grade students cant enjoy poetry never shared a book of dragon poems with them. Someone challenged my students to support the statement that poetry is the music of language. They did--with The Dragons are Singing Tonight. I loaned them my copy and asked them to divide into small groups to perform one of the 17 poems using theater art such as dance, music, or song. Each was fabulous, but I will never, ever forget the creative performance of I Am Boom!
The young man (11 years old) who selected to perform I Am Boom! was quiet, studious, wore glasses, slight, and very smart. He had a lot of respect among his classmates but wasnt outgoing. He took this assignment very seriously (of course). He was secretive about his plans, while everyone else was bragging and joyfully sharing their plans, no body knew what he was up to. They had a week to prepare. On show day he had a small cape (props) and had a tape player. The music was no more than a rap beat to accompany his rendition of Boom. He entered the stage, cape subtly hidden, and he proceeded to tell his story as rap in a way that would have made Jack Prelutsky proud.
I Am Boom the thunder dragon
Taller than the tallest trees,
I stir whirlwinds when I whisper,
Mighty cyclones when I sneeze,
Fishes shiver in the ocean
When I tread upon the shore,
I make earthquakes and volcanoes
When I roar roar ROAR!"
We almost fell back in our chairs. Dramatically and appropriately his cape unfurled and retreated repeatedly. If you know the poem the next verse concludes with
"When I dance dance DANCE!"
and the poem ends with
"I am boom boom BOOM!"
He danced, roared, boomed, and had a standing ovation and students chanted,
"We want more more MORE!!"
The poem touched a quiet little spot in him and on that day he just came alive and completely felt the poem, story, music, and drama. The word went out through the other classes about his performance and he repeated it several times. My education degree was worth the sacrifices that day. He was set for the year, and the students, each one through his interpretation and all of the other versions, fully understood the music of poetry and the fun.
Jack Prelutskys The Dragons are Singing Tonight opens the imagination to creativity. Isnt dragon a euphemism for imagination? Simply envisioning a dragon takes us into a magical world, but these dragons had the added advantage of hatching from illustrator Peter Siss creative mind.
This book introduces us to 17 different dragons. Just like people dragons can be personable, intimidating, scary, or sweet. The compilation includes a wishful dragon, as well as some that are attitudinal, boastful, noisy, gentle, lazy, mechanical, amiable, and some that are anticipating or telling stories. Anyone who has spent a lot of time at a keyboard (and still believes in dragons) has met the dragon within the computer.
Do you believe? Do you remember when you did? One precious dragon haunts two pages I think, hoping that someone will believe. This, the shortest poem, states (and its oh so true),
"If you dont believe in dragons,
It is curiously true
That the dragons you disparage
Choose to not believe in you."
A combination of fun rhymes, quick paces, enthralling illustrations, and a rich (but challenging) vocabulary, guarantees capturing the imaginations of most children. I found that my students not only loved the poems, I found them staring at the illustrations as if they were attempting to enter through the framed art into the land and times of dragons. If you enjoy dragons, regardless of your age, you will appreciate the attention to detail and imagination illustrator Peter Sis provided. Its because of books like this that I may never grow up. Discussing gargoyles and dragons recently caused me to locate my copy and reread the poems. The doorway into imagination and fun opened for a brief time. This is how I remain fresh and receptive to new ideas and somewhat silly.
Reading this to my colleagues 7-year old daughter was a treat. She was unfamiliar with this book but thoroughly enjoyed it, saying that the dragons were cooler (her words) than ponies. The last poem says that once dragons were honored and feared, but people quit believing in dragons and they simply disappeared. Im not sure, but in addition to hearing some singing, we think we saw some back in the library stacks. Lets hope.
[Some Nuts and Bolts]
This book has 17 poems, wonderfully illustrated (try to find the dragon in the last poem) with beautiful colors that create a fantasy world using almost real dragons. My copy is a large hard cover book, a size that is easily shared. Each poem and dragon gets two full pages. The poems must be read out loud. The rich vocabulary tends to be challenging, but in context younger readers understand. I think this book is best for 4th and 5th grade students, but children as young as four will enjoy the dragons and the fun, while adults who enjoy dragonlore will appreciate the poems and art.
About the Poet
In an interview with Jack Prelutsky he stated a dislike for poetry because of a teacher who left me with the impression that poetry was the literary equivalent of liver. I was told it was good for me, but I wasnt convinced. There are many of us who are thrilled he overcame that barrier, although the teacher was in part right, it was good for him.
I want to thank Jack Prelutsky for his ongoing efforts to keep imaginations active and for spending so many years rejuvenating poetry (for adults and children). I want to thank him for some outrageously silly poems and the ensuing laughter (sometimes tears from laughter) and I want to thank him for Peter Sis and for their combined efforts in The Dragons are Singing Tonight.
About the Dragons
Each dragon is charming in its own way, but the best is the one that waits for his time, hoping that someone will awaken the sleeping dragon.
All quoted material is copyright 1993 by Jack Prelutsky