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Zog the dragon goes to school
Zog - Julia Donaldson
Member Name: KLockwood75
Zog - Julia Donaldson
Advantages: Fun to read, great illustrations, appealing to both genders
Since my son was given "Room on the Broom" and "The Gruffalo" as a baby, we have always been big fans of Julia Donaldson in this house. We have now amassed a significant collection of her books, and one of the current favourites is "Zog". Like The Gruffalo, Zog is illustrated by Axel Scheffler and the combination of Donaldson's rhyming text and Scheffler's trademark illustrations make it extra appealing to both of my children. My six year old was very into this book for a while after he first got it, especially while he was going through a phase where he was very interested in the idea of dragons. However, it is now my almost three year old that has adopted Zog as one of her current favourites - and we are reading it most nights at the moment as one of her bedtime stories.
Zog is the story of a young dragon who goes to school to learn all the essential skills for being a dragon. The school is run by Madame Dragon who teaches her young charges "all the things that dragons need to know". In Year One, the dragons start by learning to fly and progress to other such critical dragon skills as roaring, breathing fire and capturing princesses. However, every time Zog goes off to practice one of his new-found skills, he meets with a mishap. When he practices flying, he ends up crashing into a tree and when he masters breathing fire, he gets so excited by his achievement that he twirls round while still breathing out flames and sets the tip of his own wing alike. Luckily, there is a little girl who is always on hand to administer some medical attention - a plastic, a peppermint, a stretchy bandage - and eventually, to reveal herself as a real live princess so that Zog can 'rescue' her and finally earn his golden star.
Like most Julia Donaldson books, the story is written in rhyme which means the words flow off the tongue easily and make it a very pleasurable book to read. There is also a predictable pattern to the story which I think appeals to young children. Each part starts with the same basic story of Madame Dragon teaching the young dragons a new skill, then Zog goes off to practice, something goes wrong and Princess Pearl steps in to save the day. There is a happy ending as well, which I see as important in stories aimed at this particular age group. The rhyming style of the text also helps with children who are just starting to read, as if they can understand the way that rhyming works, they can often figure out what the word is by sounding it out using their phonics skills. I haven't actually tested my six year old out on reading Zog, as I suspect he knows the book off by heart anyway, but even if they feel they are 'too old' to listen to this as a story, it may still hold their attention as something to read independently.
In my opinion, Axel Scheffler's illustrations also bring a lot to this story. The dragons all seem to have their own personality and their facial expressions are brilliant. The illustrations add to the comedy of the text as well and create good points for discussion. Also, like other books by this combination, there are elements of the illustrations of other stories in the text as well - whether that is the hidden Gruffalo on one of the pages, or a young red dragon which my daughter swears is the one from 'Room on the Broom' or just the similarities in the woodland animals. We seem to spend a lot of time talking about the pictures, which I feel is a sign of a book that is well illustrated.
I feel that Zog is very appealing to young children. The school setting, and the learning of new skills, is something that they can relate to and there is a lot of comedy through Zog's frequent accidents which always makes my daughter laugh. She never fails to find him setting his own wing on fire hysterically funny and asks to see that particular page over and over again. It is also not a book that is aimed at a specific gender - ok, dragons could be perceived as a 'boy' thing, but Princess Pearl is a very strong female character who starts off by looking after the dragons (which appeals to my two year old who loves to 'look after' her toys and make them better) but eventually reveals her desire to escape the princess lifestyle of 'prancing round the palace in a silly, frilly dress' as she would much prefer to be a doctor. In a world where the average three and four year old girl seems to be obsessed by Disney princesses, this makes her a very positive role model.
Zog is available in various formats - hardback, paperback and board book - and the cheapest version on Amazon is currently £2.79.
I would definitely recommend this book. We have had many happy bedtimes cuddled up reading this and I'm sure we will be having many more. Having read it most nights for the last week, I am kind of hoping we move on to a new obsession soon but this is still a book that I enjoy reading and that my children enjoy listening to. In summary, it is an entertaining story with a great deal of humour, accompanied by illustrations which are full of character and a perfect complement to the text.
Summary: The trials and tribulations of life at dragon school