Children’s Books to Celebrate the Year of the Dragon

This month brings the beginning of the Lunar New Year for millions of people around the world. And 2024 ushers in the Year of the Dragon, which is a perfect excuse for reading these excellent books about dragons.

Red is a Dragon: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Thong is a wonderful book for preschoolers learning colors. A girl looks at colors in the world around her. Some examples might be foreign to some kids (the dragon in a Chinese New Year parade, incense sticks) but others will be very familiar (flowers, kites, raincoats).

Did you know that Dragons Love Tacos? Adam Rubin does and in his book he’ll tell you exactly what kind of tacos to have to get dragons to come to your party. Just don’t have salsa…because dragons and salsa together is a dangerous mix.

Both main characters in the The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie de Paola are new to the idea of fighting each other. And truth be told, neither is very excited about fighting. The reader will giggle as they both research what they need to do to fulfill their expected roles.

Again by Emily Gravett features Cedric, an adorable little dragon who wants his favorite bedtime story. Mommy Dragon reads it only to have him demand “Again.” Each time she reads the story it gets shorter and shorter and Cedric gets more and more upset. At the end the Mom falls asleep and Cedric’s temper explodes in a way that only a dragon’s can.

Don’t Wake the Dragon by Bianca Schulze is a fun interactive story where the readers are tasked with checking into make sure a sleeping dragon does NOT wake up. The castle is full of noisy knights and cooks clanging pots and pans so it is not an easy task.

Me and My Dragon by David Bierdzycki features a young boy who wants a dragon for a pet. He’s already figured out how to take care of it and details all the things he would do if only he could have his wish come true.

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman warns kids that if they do have a pet dragon there is one place they absolutely must not buy them. We do learn that it’s fine to visit the library and bring home books for your dragon to read at home, so there is a happy ending for everyone.

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Graeme is a longer book with slightly old-fashioned language so it’s probably best suited to be read-aloud. A boy finds a dragon in a nearby cave and is surprised to discover that unlike all the myths, this dragon has no desire to hurt anyone. When the famous St. George comes to town, the dragon really doesn’t’ want to fight him. The boy has to figure out a solution to save his friend. The illustrations by A. A. Milne are the perfect accompaniment.

St. George is also featured in St. George and the Dragon, Margaret Hodges retelling of the classic tale. The illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman are intricate and beautiful.

Another hilarious take on the classic tale is George and the Dragon by Chris Wormell. In this version, the fierce dragon is terrorizing the countryside but one day George moves in next door. When George goes over to borrow some sugar, he surprises the dragon who is about to devour a kidnaped princess. The dragon runs away in fear and the grateful princess invites George to move into her castle to provide protection. The twist…George is a mouse and the dragon is terrified of mice.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is a 1949 Newbury Honor Book. It is the first in a series and is absolutely one of the silliest books I’ve ever read with my kids. A young boy, Elmer Elevator, journeys to Wild Island to help free a captive dragon. He faces tigers, gorillas, and crocodiles and has to defeat them in unexpected ways (one features pink lollipops). The pure silliness and very short chapters make this a great first chapter book read-aloud with younger kids.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is a wonderful fantasy novel inspired by Chinese folklore (and also is the first in a series and a Newbury Honor Book). A young girl from a very poor family goes out to seek the Old Man in the Moon to try and changer her fortune. Along the way she is accompanies by a dragon for part of her journey.

If you have seen the movie but haven’t read the books, this is a great time to give the wonderful series How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell a try. Kids will love this story about the intrepid Hiccup, son of chief of his Viking clan, and how he befriends and trains Toothless the dragon. The plot is very different from the movie but it is equally fun and the series as a whole is a great choice for reluctant readers and kids who like adventure stories.

Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series is another fabulous dragon series. Five dragonets have been hidden away from the world and the war raging around them between the different dragon tribes due to a prophecy that they will one day end the war.

For teens, two go to dragon themed books are Christopher Paolini’s Eragon and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. They are very different in style but they are both fantasy themed plot driven adventures that have engaged readers for decades.