My Dad and the Dragon

Children - Concept
44 Pages
Reviewed on 04/27/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

My Dad and the Dragon, written by Montserrat Coughlin Kim and illustrated by Rebekah S Cheresnick, is a children's picture book revolving around a boy called Cameron and his family in the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis. The dragon is the cancer and the family refers to it as what the father is fighting, and what they all must live with. Readers are shown all of the ways the cancer dragon can impact daily life, including loss of appetite and taste, loss of hair, and even the dad's occasional loss of temper. Cameron says he is afraid and his mother assures him that she is too. Each page of the book is fully illustrated in vibrant jewel tones and original artwork.

My wife lost her mother to cancer at a very young age and was fortunate that the family was completely transparent about what was happening. My Dad and the Dragon has this transparency as well and Montserrat Coughlin Kim gives children something they can understand and attach the cancer to without sugar-coating it and giving promises about everything being okay. Because sadly, often it is not okay. I got choked up when one of the children expressed denial and their mother assured them that the doctors did a lot of tests, and it was definitely the cancer dragon. It is compassionate and honest, and it is really beautiful. The illustrations by Rebekah S Cheresnick breathe life into the family, their home, and the cancer dragon. I loved the emotion conveyed and the depiction of both good days and not so good days. Cancer is a difficult subject and is especially hard for children to process. This story and the resources provided are a wonderful way to take some of the edge off. Very highly recommended.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Is there someone you love who’s very sick? Perhaps he or she has the cancer dragon inside them. The cancer dragon can be pretty scary and it zaps the energy and positivity out of the individual that fights it. That’s what’s happened to Cameron’s dad. He has the cancer dragon inside him. It makes him sick; he loses his hair (and sometimes his temper, too); he’s weak and can’t do much with Cameron like he used to do, and sometimes he’s so sick he has to go to the hospital. When that happens, Cameron’s really scared Dad won’t come home again.

Montserrat Coughlin Kim’s picture book story, My Dad and the Dragon, is based on her own young family and their experiences dealing with her husband’s cancer dragon. The story is told in the first-person narrative from Cameron’s point of view, following his observations and concerns as his dad goes through his treatments to fight the cancer dragon. The story is told in simple language and the text font varies in size and style, sometimes weaving the words around the images in the illustrations. This makes for an interesting read as young readers will have fun following the wavy curves of each sentence and they’ll start to recognize some of the words written in a really bold, colorful script. The illustrations are simplistic but colorful and they certainly help carry the plot forward. There is enough descriptive narrative to help young readers understand the complexity and seriousness of the disease without scaring them too much. Added resources are provided at the end in case young readers facing similar family dramas as Cameron faces can find extra help. The story is told with care and compassion and is both engaging and educational.

Stacie Haas

My Dad and the Dragon by Montserrat Coughlin Kim is a picture book about a child named Cameron whose father gets invaded by a dragon named Cancer. Cameron can’t see the dragon or smell it, but he wants to catch it so that he can make it go away. Cameron knows it’s there because it sometimes makes his dad tired, like when Cameron wants to wrestle, but his dad asks to play cards instead. The dragon makes his dad’s food taste bad and his hair fall out. It even makes him snarl in anger every once in a while. But Cameron knows that it’s not his dad’s fault - it is the dragon roaring all the time. His dad does his best to keep it quiet, though. He goes to the hospital to take special medicine and he rests. Cameron and his sister, Chloe, help as well. They put on shows, play sports, celebrate birthdays, and eat dinner together. Sometimes their dad seems stronger than the cancer dragon and life seems almost normal. Regardless of what kind of day the family is having, they know that their love for their dad is the best weapon against the dragon and that “every day is a good day to tell my Dad that I love him.”

Montserrat Coughlin Kim has written a timely and poignant story about a family whose dad is diagnosed with cancer. She clearly shows the ups and downs of life - the good days, the bad days, and the ones in between. She also shows genuine feelings of joy in happy moments and the child’s anger at the dragon for invading their lives and making his dad suffer. She acknowledges the child’s worry while also trying to assuage it with honesty and encouragement. The best part of the book is that the author doesn’t shy away from the difficult moments but recognizes them as part of the journey. The illustrations by Rebekah S. Cheresnick are wonderful. The way the dragon is depicted is excellent - it’s a dark shadow that Cameron can’t see on some days, and, on good days, it has shrunk in size and the child’s father holds it on his shoulders effortlessly. Both the author and illustrator have brought cancer to life in a way that is relatable for young kids - until the time comes when it can be banished forever. As explained in a hand-written letter printed at the beginning of My Dad and the Dragon, the author is donating 100% of the proceeds of the book to organizations that help children who have sick parents. Recommended for families dealing with the dragon of cancer, caregivers, and young kids everywhere to encourage empathy and understanding in the face of difficulties.

Frances Phillips

My Dad and the Dragon by Montserrat Coughlin Kim is a wonderfully frank exploration of the rollercoaster of emotions, questions, and experiences that consume Cameron, a little boy aged about six, during his father’s journey with cancer. The cancer is cleverly characterized as a dark, invisible dragon with whom Cameron’s father has to battle constantly. Cameron has to come to terms with the fact that his father is not invincible, cannot roughhouse as he used to, but needs lots of love and support. With the guidance of his mother, Cameron learns that he is not helpless in this situation, for he can understand the disease, its treatment, and how best to help his father. Kim’s sensitive and heartfelt book empowers young readers by reaching out in a way that resonates with them.

In My Dad and the Dragon, Montserrat Coughlin Kim manages to turn the harrowing subject of cancer in one’s immediate family into something which a young child can digest and process, doing so in a manner that makes a child want to read the story, despite the subject matter. The illustrations by Rebekah Cheresnick are beautiful, complementing the text with their bright colors and attention to detail. They provide much for a parent to discuss with their child whilst reading the story. The variety of font sizes and shapes help maintain interest levels, whilst the text layout ensures the reader’s eye is drawn to the detail involved in each illustration. An inspiring and affirming book for little people.

Melinda Facal

My Dad and the Dragon, written by Montserrat Coughlin Kim with illustrations by Rebekah S. Cheresnick, tenderly and truthfully shares the difficult experience of a parent being diagnosed with cancer. Told through the eyes of a child, Cameron feels that some days he and his family are just a normal family and then at other times acknowledges the fear and uncertainty that the family members experience. As he cannot see or hear cancer, it feels as though a dragon has invaded his father’s body. Cameron understands that powerful medicine and treatments are working to rid his father’s body of cancer. Cameron’s parents encourage the family to help one another and to support their father through this trying time. The author candidly describes how the cancer dragon causes one to feel unwell and even angry and possibly lose one’s hair. All this suffering is met with love and compassion from Cameron and his family. Vivid and detailed illustrations with many scenes from nature create a calm and loving backdrop for this story.

My Dad and the Dragon by Montserrat Coughlin Kim poignantly and realistically shows how a parent’s cancer diagnosis affects the whole family. While truthfully depicting the unease and disquiet that occur, the strength and power of a family’s love and concern are also beautifully shared. Cameron’s parents and older sister answer his concerns with compassion and honesty. This story will offer hope and encouragement to families who have a loved one diagnosed with cancer. Children will see that they are not alone in dealing with the anxiety, sadness, and turmoil that a cancer diagnosis inevitably brings. The cancer is seen as a dragon that has invaded Cameron’s father’s body, making it easier for children to understand this daunting diagnosis. Cameron and his family courageously fighting the cancer dragon will provide comfort to many children and their families.


A Good book for a family to read together when trying to understand how to explain cancer of a loved one