Nickerbacher, The Funniest Dragon

Children - Grade K-3rd
60 Pages
Reviewed on 05/08/2015
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Author Biography

Before writing children's books, Terry John Barto directed and choreographed more than 200 regional theater productions. In addition, he was the creative mind behind numerous television and cruise ship live shows throughout the world. When Terry John Barto was employed as the creative director for Wings of Dreams Productions, he worked with many diverse ideas and turned them into screenplays for animated films. He also used his experience to help artists develop popular action figures and dolls for several large retailers.

He lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys Pilates, Yoga, and hiking with his dachshunds, Hunter and Mazie.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon is a fantasy for children, grades K-3, written by Terry John Barto and illustrated by Kim Sponaugle. Nickerbacher was a young dragon who didn’t feel that his job of guarding Princess Gwendolyn in her tower was what he should be doing with his life. He really liked to tell jokes, which he did all of the time, and he wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Gwendolyn liked his jokes and thought he should follow his dreams and become a comic, but Nickerbacher was worried about what his father would think. His father believed that all dragons should guard princesses, and he placed Gwendolyn under Nickerbacher’s care. When a young prince rode up to see the princess, Nickerbacher knew he was supposed to scare him away, but Nickerbacher really only wanted to tell him jokes.

Terry John Barto’s children’s fantasy picture book, Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon, features a very unusual dragon who sees humor and wit as his weapons, and who wants to do stand-up comedy. He has to find the courage to first tell his very frightening father what he wants to do with his life, and then to appear before an audience as a stand-up comic for the first time. The positive and inspiring message of this story is driven home in a hilarious way through the young dragon’s inability to do anything else but make jokes. Kim Sponaugle’s pen and ink drawings have gloriously colorful washes that make this story larger than life, a fitting thing indeed for a tale about dragons. The characters’ expressions are fabulous, especially Nickerbacher, whose bushy eyebrows are exceptional. Adults will have a marvelous time reading this story and sharing the pictures during storytelling sessions, but it’s also a great book for young readers. Nickerbacher: The Funniest Dragon is most highly recommended.

JB McPherson

Nickerbacher by Terry John Barto is a charming book for young children about a dragon who wants to be a stand-up comedian in La La Land. As everyone knows, dragons are only supposed to protect princesses, but Nickerbacher has a dream. His princess (and friend) Gwendolyn encourages him to pursue it, but he must navigate many steps. He must tell his fire-breathing Papa Dragon, contrive to get to La La Land, and convince the Late Knight Show host, Johnny Kingston, to give him a chance. He even faces the challenge of developing his jokes, getting a coach, and conquering stage fright.

The fanciful details of life in La La Land give this simple story of pursuing a dream an enchanting quality. The copious illustrations by Kim Sponaugle enhance the book, and in some sequences advance the plot with montage-like images to show Nickerbacher’s hard work and determination. The theme of not giving up, even if you are different, enriches the plot. By the end, Papa and Mama Dragon are in the audience, and Nickerbacher wins them over to his pursuit of the stage.

Young children will delight in the imaginative story and delightful illustrations, and they will identify with Nickerbacher’s longing to do something that may seem different to others. This is a good chapter book for 3rd-5th graders but younger children will enjoy having it read aloud to them. Nickerbacher by Terry John Barto is a delightful tale, sparkling with an imaginative world where dragons and princesses overcome real-world challenges. Wonderful book!