There's A Dragon DownstairsSpring 2005 Picture Books
McKay's story clearly shows Sophie working out solutions to deal with a fearful situation. Sophie tries three different strategies to defeat the dragon. First, as a knight, she arms herself with shield and sword, but no dragon appears. Her next ploy shows sound reasoning; because dragons breath fire, she arms herself with a fireman's helmet and her supersonic water squirt gun-no dragon shows up. After these two plans fail, she decks herself in her princess dress because everyone knows that dragons like Princesses. Once again, no dragon waits in the living room. Coming to a wonderfully logical conclusion, Sophie decides to confront the dragon as herself-unarmed. And the next night when the dragon enters through the cat flap, pajama-clad Sophie runs down the stairs, into the living room, and discovers that the imagined dragon is none other than her ordinary gray tabby cat.
Children love to figure out mysteries. McKay lets them become involved in the story: they ask questions: What's the sound? Who enters through the cat flap? Will Sophie catch the dragon? A good story draws children into another world; this picture book draws them into Sophie's world.
Amanda Harvey uses watercolors and pencils to create engaging pictures that show energetic actions and reveal the colorful but mysterious house. Her illustrations expand the text, create more mystery, and provide greater understanding. For example, McKay's text says that Sophie put on her armor, shield, and sword; however, we see she wears paper bag armor and a cardboard shield and sword. Another outstanding characteristic of Harvey's pictures includes specific background details and effective shadowing. In almost every illustration, we notice stuffed animals, primarily dragons and dinosaurs, resting on the shelves, the bed, or on the floor. Since most of the events occur at night, Harvey draws black shadowy figures on the walls, using bold, dark, strong pencil strokes and crosshatching. When she depicts the lively, dark headed Sophie, we watch her confront her fears by thinking, wondering, and questioning. Sophie's expressive face lets us see as thoughts dart through her mind.
This picture book gives a positive, unusual, and useful perspective on dealing with the unknown.