Verdict: A comedy within a comedy, NICKERBACHER, THE FUNNIEST DRAGON is a great children’s read that is both entertaining and educational.
A heartfelt dragon goes against social conventions to pursue his dream of being a professional comic.
Nickerbacher’s heart isn’t into performing the expected roles of a dragon, such as guarding Princess Gwendolyn and battling against Prince Happenstance. His real desire is to become a stand-up comedian, but convincing his papa of that is another issue. In preparation for his big break and unwitting performance before his parents, Nickerbacher practices his shtick (which includes a good handful of clever riddles and puns) in the presence of his good friend the Princess. When Nickerbacher gets his big break to perform at The Comedy Castle, he is unaware that his parents are in the audience.
Award-winning author Terry John Barto sends a powerful message to encourage young readers to break away from stereotypes. Barto’s concept of taking a familiar mythological creature placed within a commonplace yet complex setting is absolutely ingenious. But he uses a variety of literary tools to accomplish that task.
Children anticipate dragons to be scary and act in specific ways, except when they encounter Nickerbacher and his nonconforming persona, which is for the most part hidden from his papa. Barto has created a character that is sensitive, funny, and daring, especially when Nickerbacher learns that he is not the only one who has dreams—Prince Happenstance has always wanted to be a baseball player. That said, Nickerbacher as well as Prince Happenstance exemplify children who struggle with breaking free from parental expectations while developing their unique identities.
Barto’s storyline would be incomplete without the collaboration of award-winning and seasoned illustrator Kim Sponaugle. Sponaugle’s simple depictions are colorful, captivating, and playful, and aptly complement every aspect of Nickerbacher’s journey to fulfill his passion to become a comedian.
A comedy within a comedy, NICKERBACHER, THE FUNNIEST DRAGON is a great children’s read that is both entertaining and educational.