Dragon Dancing – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Dragon Dancing

Author: Carole Lexa Schaefer

Illustrator:  Pierr Morgan

Publisher: New York, Viking: 2007.

Genre: Picture book, fiction

Audience Age: 3 and up

Theme: imaginative play, Chinese dragons, birthday celebration, dragon dance, art in imaginative play, onomatopoeia, fun with words

Opening Sentences: At school, our teacher reads to us – a book about dragons. After, in the art room, we decorate for Mei Lin’s birthday with sparkly paper and ribbons. Snip, twirl, flip. “Look at me!” Mei Lin shouts. “I’m Birthday Dragon!”

Synopsis: The children all contribute to the birthday dragon costume, then at recess go outside and dragon dance around the playground, imagining themselves in all sorts of different locations and situations. Words in bold type, such as “stomp, bomp-tromping” and “whish-whoosh” imitate the sound or look of their actions.

Activities/Resources: Although this book is about a birthday celebration, its use of the image of dragon dancing can be a good way to introduce lessons about Chinese/Lunar New Year.

There is a listing of picture books and resources for celebrating Chinese New Year at Ready, Set, Story, a blog of the storytime features at Naples, NY library.

Scholastic also has Chinese New Year activities.

There are videos on YouTube of Dragon Dances, and Chinese New Year Parades.

Kids would have fun making their own dragon the way the children in the book did, and imagining other places the dragon could go and other things the dragon could do, even doing their own Dragon Dance.

There are facets of the book that lend themselves to other activities as well. The word onomatopoeia may be a tough one, but the concept, words that imitate sounds, is one kids can readily grasp. Here are some suggestions for activities.

Availability: In print and readily available.

# 10 in Perfect Picture Book Fridays. See all this week’s Perfect Picture Books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, or find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


45 thoughts on “Dragon Dancing – Perfect Picture Book Friday”

    1. You’re welcome. There are so many possibilities for fun this book introduces through art, dance, and imaginative play.

  1. I love your idea of using this book to introduce onomatopoeia, Beth! It’s a book with really multiple possibilities for further activities.

    1. It’s the old English major in me coming out, with the thoughts about onomatopoeia! It would be such fun to use this with a class, and see where their imaginations can take them.

  2. Sounds like a beautiful book with many great activities that kids would fnd enchanting. I particularly like the idea of introducing how another culturure celebrates the New Year, steeped with tradition that kids would find fun! Great selection.

    1. Thanks, Pat. Without mentioning the Lunar New Year, it still gives a fantastic springboard for discussion of this concept, and of multiculturalism in general. The Dragon Dance is such an integral part of the Chinese New Year celebration, that it naturally lends itself to that. In my city (and in others) we have Dragon Boat races one weekend each year, and the weekend always starts with a Dragon Dance — that’s another event that could be tied to the use of this book.

        1. There are thriving Chinese or Asian communities in many Canadian cities, but the Dragon Boat races transcend any one culture and are a major event for many in our prairie city.

  3. My kids love learning about other cultures. I can see this book holding their attention with the information on how they celebrate. I showed my daughter the video and she loved it. Thanks for sharing Beth.

    1. I’m sure your daughter will enjoy the book. Although it focuses on using a Dragon Dance as a birthday celebration and a lead-in to imaginative play, it can be a springboard to so much more. Thanks, Jennifer!

    1. I’ve been holding on to this book for over a month, waiting to post it at the time of Chinese New Year! (I’d better get it back to the library pronto!)

  4. This book looks really fun on many levels! And so many great-looking activities! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad to have another Chinese New Year type book on the list, what with it coming soon!

  5. We’ve checked this book out at the library several times in the past. A great book for this time of year! I’ll have to try some of the activities you recommend next time we check it out 🙂

    1. Oh, great to hear from someone who is not only familiar with it, but has checked it out multiple times! That’s a sure sign of a good book!

  6. It looks like a fun and colorful book. Lots of great activities too. Through the PPBF series, I feel like I’m rewiring my brain as a writer and parent to think of a way to add a new layer to the books.

    1. Good point about the “brain rewiring” — this process does make us look at books, whether reading or writing, in a different way, doesn’t it? I’ve started adding informational endnotes in some of my picture book manuscripts. Perhaps activities might be good in some, as well. Hmmm…

  7. Excellent choice you made here. All kidlets should love this book. Learning about the different cultures is always exciting. Great idea about the book introducing onomatopoeia. You have been wearing your thinking cap. *waving*

    1. Thanks, Robyn. The use of all the wonderful-sounding onomatopoeic words entranced me. (I just wish there was a simpler term to type than onomat…etc.)

  8. This looks like a fun book, and perfect for Year of the Dragon. Onomatopoeia books are so much fun to read aloud.

    You mentioned dragon boat festival – that is so cool that your town celebrates it. I, naturally, think primarily of the food associated with it (bamboo-wrapped sweet rice). I wonder if there are any English-language children’s books about Dragon Boat Festival.

    1. Thanks, LittleMiao! I am now going to hunt for English-language books about Dragon Boat Festival. (You knew I would as soon as you mentioned it, didn’t you?)

  9. Thankyou for sharing this book Beth, will look for it in our local library. Promoting and selling year of the Dragon stamps at work I also painted a mural on cardboard of a huge Dragon which is now displayed on our shop wall, much to the delight of our Chinese community. We celebrate Chinese New Year with a Lanten Festival weekend of 5th Feb and have a yearly Dragon Boat Festival. Love books with a cultural background or theme… Websites I found of books…. http://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Dragon-Boat-Festival/dp/0887766560 and came across this e-book website of all books relating to the Chinese Festival http://www.cultural-china.com/chinaWH/features/ebooks01/index.html

    1. Thanks, Diane. Cool about the mural you painted! And thanks for the links. They’ll enhance the experience for future readers.

  10. This seems like an interesting book! I like the idea of the kids pretending to be dragons! PLUS, I love… onomatopoeia! The sounds, name, AND meaning are what I love about onomatopoeia!!! I like learning about different cultures and religons!
    Erik 🙂

    1. Thanks, Erik! I’m just imagining what incredible dragon pictures your sister could do…

      How cool that you love onomatopoeia! Aren’t words fun?

  11. Beth, I love reading books to kids about Chinese New Year. So many of my students have never heard of it and are fascinated by the celebration when we read about it. This looks like a great read-aloud! At the private school where I worked ten years ago, we actually held a Chinese New Year parade with dragon and all-it wound all through the pre-school, lower school, middle, and upper school. My kids looked forward to it every year. I miss that!

    1. This would be a great read-aloud, although technically it’s about a birthday Dragon Dance. Kids would have a great time cooperating to make their own dragon after hearing this book. I love the thought of that parade through the school!

    1. PPBF is a fantastic way to connect with books that we wouldn’t have encountered before. I nearly always end up with a stack of requests at the library because of PPBF! And I love the resources both as an add-on and as a way to get my own thoughts digging deeper into the value of any book.

  12. A perfect choice for the Chinese New Year week! Great review. I think I’ve read this one before, but I am going to check it out again at the library next week. Thanks!

  13. Love the choice, Beth! The cover art is lots of fun — I just love the Chinese New Year dragons. The first time I saw one in person was actually in Madrid, Spain…it was quite a colorful sight with several dragons weaving, banners flying, and music filling the square. Will have to share this with my boys when they’re a bit older. 🙂

    1. How delightful — and a proof of how multicultural the world has become — that your first Chinese New Year experience was in Spain. I love that!

      Your boys will have a great time making their own dragon after reading the book, when they’re a little older. Right now, they might enjoy another dragon book, about a dragon named Cedric who wants his bedtime story read AGAIN! AGAIN! is by Emily Gravett, and was published in 2011, so it’s still hot off the press (with the smoke hole in the back to prove it!)

      1. Ooh, thanks for the tip. I love dragons in general, and have another fairly new dragon book lined up for PPBF (When a Dragon Moves In). And I’ve got an Emily Gravett lined up, but not that one…sigh, now I want her dragon book too! 🙂

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  15. Yahoo!! Fun surprise. Thanks for the recommend of Carole’s and my book!! How cool! A little detail that you might not have noticed (since it isn’t mentioned in the fine print of the © page) is I used tiny pieces of Origami paper cut and glued onto the original illustrations. Start on the spread when they’re in the art room. If you look closely you can sometimes see the teensy shadow the laser printer picked up from the collage effect. I cut around the children’s hands and slipped the Origami paper underneath so they’re cutting out and drawing on REAL Origami paper. Even the purple dragon “boink-boink” eyes are cut outs – actual size. You will find their cut out shapes on the imagined dragon as they dance. Thanks again, Beth – Dragon Dancing and I are thrilled to be the subject of your Perfect Picture Book Friday!! xo

    1. Thank you so much, Pierr, for dropping by and for giving that fascinating explanation of the way you did some of the drawings. I love that detail! (And the “boink-boink” eyes are delightful — I’ll take a closer look at them now.)

      Thanks so much, to both you and Carole, for such a wonderful book!

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