Maddie Frost (Smug Seagull) extolls the power of self-acceptance in the punnily-titled Iguana Be a Dragon, a hilarious, eye-catching comic-style picture book about an insecure iguana who makes a big splash with his new neighbors.
When Iguana, a spindly-fingered emerald lizard with jauntily askew spines, moves into a new neighborhood, he promptly receives an anxiety-generating invitation to a pool party with "amazing" animals, including speedy host Cheetah. He finds his own qualities pedestrian by comparison: "Iguanas are green. They enjoy the sun. They're green." Then cosplay inspiration strikes. With two party hat "horns" and a pair of kite "wings," Iguana can pass as an amazing fire-breathing dragon. Determined to make an en flambé entrance, he gobbles down spicy treats until he belches a gout of flame that blasts him across town and directly into Cheetah's pool. His disguise washes away, but he accidentally wins a race with his speedy swimming. The other animals are impressed with his aquatic abilities and applaud his climbing skills, sense of humor and thoughtfulness. Relaxing on a float, Iguana smiles as he realizes being himself is "pretty amazing."
Frost's candy-colored palette and geometric patterned backgrounds offer a visual delight for young children while calling up adult readers' nostalgia for 1990s cartoon series. Interspersed comic panels keep the pacing lively and will give young readers a taste of the graphic novel format. This joyful, unabashedly offbeat celebration of personal authenticity affirms the beauty of individuality, though it may give dragons a case of iguana envy. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth experience manager, Dayton Metro Library