Liza Jane & the Dragon
Writer Laura Lippman (Writer), Kate Samworth (Illustrator)
October 2, 2018
An advanced reader copy of Liza Jane & the Dragon was provided by the publisher.
Liza Jane & the Dragon is the story of a girl who thinks she can find better parents, so she fires her current parents. After posting a job for a new mom and dad, the first applicant to come calling is a dragon. Liza decides to give him a chance, but as one might expect, dragons don’t make the best parents to humans.
The cover image of Liza Jane conjures her as smart and spunky girl with a can-do attitude. The paper she’s holding makes her look ready to tackle a list or project; her hand cocked on her hip signals she’ll take none of your nonsense while doing it. The fun orange and pink colors of her clothes made me hope for an artsy girl who goes on buddy adventures with her dragon. Unfortunately, I was wrong on many accounts.
Liza Jane turns out to be more of a self-centered child than an adventurous protagonist. She feels like her parents don’t listen to her and that they interrupt her. This revelation is made on a page where Liza Jane looks upset that everyone else in the group is not paying attention to her, but instead listening attentively to another girl telling a story. Then Liza decides to fire her parents and find new ones. When she posts a neighborhood ad, the very first applicant to her job, the dragon, interrupts her. Still, she hires him.
From day one with the dragon, nothing is all the way fun, but she keeps him. The dragon’s only problem-solving response is to breathe fire at everything. When Liza Jane questions him on it, like “Be nicer; don’t burn the delivery person’s car,” his answer is, “Hey, I’m a dragon.” It’s not until her house has holes and no one wants to play with her anymore that Liza Jane thinks it might be good to part ways. It’s like the children’s book version of a bad relationship story. Not exactly the empowering read I want to share with my nieces.
Overall, it feels like a story lacks cohesiveness. It suffers mish-mashed bits that don’t quite puzzle together. The early pages repeat a phrase about Liza Jane being lucky, but then doesn’t mention it again until the last page. The story feels like there’s supposed to be a lesson learned, but it’s unclear what exactly that lesson is. Even Liza Jane’s appearance is uncertain as in some drawings her mother appears to be a woman of color and on some pages, Liza Jane looks darker than other times, too.
Liza Jane & the Dragon is written by New York Times best-selling detective author Laura Lippman. Although Lippman is a seasoned writer, this is her first foray into children’s books. I wish that this book was a detective girl and her sidekick dragon, or a detective dragon who needs a human girl’s help. Alas, it is not.
Liza Jane & the Dragon hit bookshelves October 2.