Breakfast on a dragon's tail and other book bites

Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail: and Other Book Bites by M. Springett

Springett, Martin. Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail: and Other Book Bites. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2011. Print.

This unusual volume by award-winning illustrator/author Martin Springett takes the “choose your own ending” idea to a whole new level by not providing an ending at all. In fact the whole book is made up of thirteen beginnings of stories, each accompanied by a full-page illustration, which might have served as a book cover. The book is designed to promote creative activities.  Springett tells children that each story “should have a beginning, a middle and an end” and that he has provided the beginning. He encourages children to finish the stories in any way they like, through creative endeavors ranging from poetry to a “chalk drawing on the sidewalk”. Children are also encouraged to post their stories to publisher Fitzhenry and Whiteside’s website, where “teachers and parents will also find useful information and classroom activities”.

Springett’s art-work depicts the fantastic in each story. The first image, accompanying Breakfast on a Dragon’s Tail, is bordered by patterns that recall a medieval illuminated manuscript. In the same vein, the letter “O” which begins the story is embellished with a dragon curled around it. The others are more cartoon-like.

Springett’s writing is very good . His story beginnings are engaging. In the Twelve Dancing Crocodiles the reader finds out that a magician and twelve dancing princesses have disappeared.   Are they the twelve dancing crocodiles? They are if you want them to be.  In The Nattering Tree, people sit under a tree and listen as the tree talks to itself. There are also lots of good one-line jokes in the story beginnings. In the Dithering Ducks of Deptford, one of the ducks says, “Never listen to a gnome! They are born naughty!” Another story, which has nothing to do with computers, is called Chip and Pin. In Dracula and Son, Springett irreverently refers to the characters as “Papa Drac” and “Drac Junior”.

It would have been entertaining to read Springett’s versions of the endings. In fact, some children may be put off by the fact that they have to think up their own endings and entertain themselves. Because of that, this book will probably work best in a structured environment, where children have a reason to stay on track and complete the stories.

Overall this book is an interesting concept, that is probably best suited to the classroom environment, so it is recommended with that reservation.

Recommendation:  3 stars out of 4
Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.