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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
We all feel a wide range of emotions from time to time: scared, sad, angry, and happy. Not all at once, of course. Ellie is off to her first day of school. While waiting for the school bus, she’s suddenly scared. She doesn’t know anyone on the bus and she doesn’t know anyone at her new school. At least, she doesn’t think she knows anyone. But, tucked away in special compartments of her new backpack, her four emotional dragons are waiting to help when needed. Naz is a green dragon and, when he notices Ellie being scared, he pops out and helps her deal with her fear. Then comes the feeling of sadness when she sits alone in her class and realizes she misses her parents, anger when the class bully is mean to a fellow student, and happy when she realizes she loves school and she’s made a new friend. Each feeling is accompanied by a special emotional dragon that helps Ellie deal with her range of feelings.
Joseph Goodrich’s picture book story, Ellie and Her Emotional Dragons: Ellie’s First Day of School, is a clever way to help young readers deal with the emotional rollercoaster we all feel at times, especially when placed in a new situation. Written in simple language to help young readers follow along and learn to read the story themselves, and accompanied by colorful illustrations, the plot follows Ellie’s first day at school, from waiting for the school bus to settling into her class and meeting the other students. The author has provided the protagonist, Ellie, with powerful tools to help her face new situations: imaginative, friendly emotional dragons. The author addresses the main emotions that affect young people when suddenly placed in a new situation: fear, sadness, anger, and happiness. Each dragon senses the new emotion and is able to help Ellie deal with each emotion. With the use of different animals (Ellie is an elephant) as the children and teacher, the author is also bringing in the issue of diversity and acceptance. Bullying is also presented. This is an action-packed, emotional first day of school. Lots of lessons shared and learned in this little treasure of a book.