Before you host your taco party with dragons, get rid of all the spicy salsa.
In fact, bury the spicy salsa in the backyard so the dragons can’t find it.”
(Click to enlarge spread)
Do you know those really funny picture books that don’t get in the way of their own humor, that perhaps don’t even get how very funny they are, much like that wicked funny friend you have, who cracks you up yet doesn’t realize how wicked sharp her own wit is? Or perhaps doesn’t even know the power of her own goofy and how extremely entertaining it is to everyone around her?
Or, better yet, here are the words of the late, great James Marshall on the matter:
“[H]umor, which I do—comedy—is very tricky. You can’t show how hard you work. You can’t call attention to yourself. You can’t show the wheels turning. It’s got to be like a balloon that floats up into the air. You don’t make the reader, the viewer aware of anything but the story.”
Today’s featured book is like that for me, Adam Rubin’s Dragons Love Tacos, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. I read an early copy of this book months ago and nearly laughed my fool head off, but not as much as my eight-year-old and six-year-old did.
It’s hard to describe the book’s wit, which is why, as always, l lean on the art to describe it better than I ever could. This is droll, very offbeat stuff, which as I said isn’t trying too hard to be funny — yet is remarkably so.
“Hey, kid!” the book opens. “Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well?” Right off the bat we see that no dragons are going to have life-affirming lessons about sharing or bickering or the circle of life. This is just going to be a really funny book about things like … well, little baby tacos. Score. And right there on the first spread is a young boy and his dog, the one at which “hey, kid!” is aimed, staring at us with a look that could be utter confusion or utter disdain. (You can see that here at the illustrator’s site.)
Indeed, these dragons, it turns out, live in taco caves, and “tacos are key” if you want to make friends with them. On the third spread (also included at Salmieri’s site) we see that the boy and his dog have set out to make some tacos for the dragons, “[b]ut wait! As much as dragons love tacos, they hate spicy salsa even more.” Same for the toppings. (“Hey dragon, how do you feel about spicy taco toppings?” says one spread, as we see a purple dragon laid out dramatically on the ground, tongue hanging out, as if ill. It’s a laugh-outloud moment of melodrama, which you can actually see at the “illustrations” page of Daniel’s site.)
(Click to enlarge spread)
Dragons also love parties, but the only thing dragons love more than parties or tacos is … wait for it … taco parties. So, a taco party is had, and I don’t want to give away the entire story here, but let’s say the boy and his dog, as you can see above, didn’t read the fine print on the salsa bottle. The tension that builds here, as the reader realizes this, is funny stuff. And the over-the-top drama that results is one of my favorite picture book spreads of 2012.
Now, RIGHT HERE I was gonna be all, drumroll…here’s that very funny spread of which I speak! ‘Cause, you see, I have this particular spread to show you, as someone at Penguin had sent it to me, but the file is corrupt and she can’t mail it to me again till Monday. (Same for the illustrator himself.) This means that tomorrow, for those who really want to see this spread, I’ll have it up at 7-Imp in its own addendum-type post. Hey, it’ll be fun. And, hey, this great picture book deserves two posts, right? RIGHT!
For now, my own girls, who love this book, show off their Salmieri-inspired art. (We were going to re-enact this missing spread, but it’s challenging without actual dragons around.) First up, is a dragon-sized taco—a very fiery one, indeed—followed by what might happen if a ginormous dragon ate too many jalapeño peppers.
Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion. I promise I’ll have the real spread then.
Dare I say it’s a delicious treat, much like a taco? I just did.
DRAGONS LOVE TACOS. Copyright © 2012 by Adam Rubin. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Daniel Salmieri. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin, New York. Images reproduced by permission of publisher.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
My kicks ONE to SEVEN this week are taken care of with this video, featuring Naomi Shihab Nye talking about poetry. I’m such a fan of her books, her poetry, all her writings. (She did write two of my favorite poems, after all — “Kindness” and “Famous.”)
I only wish this were longer. (It’s just under two-and-a-half minutes.) I could listen to her talk even more.
You can also see her read two of her poems here.
Actually, another kick is that I really like this song from GASHCAT, called “The Morning Sun,” and the entire CD from which it comes:
That one’s for gettin’ up and dancing.
What are YOUR kicks this week?