Author: Terry John Barto
Illustrator: Kim Sponaugle
ISBN: 978-1-4969-5456-5 (e)
Director and choreographer Terry John Barto teams up with illustrator Kim Sponaugle to present a lively inspiring picture-book about a a dragon named Nickerbacher that dreams about becoming a stand-up comic.
There is much to love in Nickerbacher The Funniest Dragon with not only its simple prose but also its humorous and colorful images that do a fantastic job in keeping the tone of the story light, despite the importance of the underlying themes pertaining to believing in oneself, following your dreams and perseverance.
The opening scene of the narrative finds an unhappy dragon, Nickerbacher acceding to the directives of his papa as he stands in front of a tall tower guarding Princess Gwendolyn. The reason for Nickerbacher’s discontent was that he would rather do stand-up comedy than guard a princess.
The only satisfaction he derives from his job is that everyday he uses the princess as a kind of bouncing board trying out his comic routines. This gives him great pleasure as he listens to the princess’s laughter as well as receiving her words of encouragement assuring him that he would one day become a great comedian.
Nickerbacher’s papa, on the other hand, was not amused by his son’s desire to become a stand-up comedian and he explicitly states that it was the duty of every dragon to guard princesses. He would have nothing of this nonsense and informed Nickerbacher that he was supposed to scare people and not make them laugh.
As the yarn continues, Prince Happenstance enters the scene when he comes to visit the princess and rudely shouts at Nickerbacher to get out of the way. Nickerbacher, who is unperturbed, mocks the prince calling him “Prince Fancypants.” This riles the prince who then challenges Nickerbacher to do battle with him. Nickerbacher, however, is more interested in amusing the prince and consequently refuses to engage in a fight. He goes on to ask the prince if he thinks he is funny to which the prince replies, “it doesn’t matter what I think, It’s what you know in your heart that matters.”
Upon hearing this, Nickerbacher follows up with another question asking the prince if he ever had a dream of being somebody else. The prince informs Nickerbacher that he had always wanted to be a baseball player but unfortunately he was born a prince. The two now begin to understand their predicaments and the prince tells Nickerbacher that at least he was brave enough to do something about it.
The yarn ends with the prince throwing off his sword and carrying off the princess with a baseball mitt in his hand shouting “Call me Pitcher Fancypants.” As for Nickerbacher., he does succeed in becoming a world -wide renowned stand-up comic bringing pride and joy to everyone including his parents.
This is an uplifting story that reinforces the notion that you must believe in yourself and follow your dreams no matter what others may think and say. Young readers will chuckle over some of Nickerbacher’s quirky jokes although some may pass over their heads. In addition, young and old will delight in the fanciful world Barto and Sponaugle have created for Nickerbacher, the prince and princess.
There is little doubt that Barto is a talented wordsmith as he presents his message in snappy dialogue which children can easily comprehend. In addition, hitting all the right notes are Sponaugle’s detailed colorful illustrations that enhance the story- line’s message. And in the end, we have a book that holds a great enlightening value, whether shared-one-on-one, in story time, in a library or classroom setting. Parents, educators, and librarians would do well in considering this book when seeking sources to teach children about following their dreams and believing in themselves.
Follow Here To Read Norm’s Interview With Terry John Barto