Day 3, book 3: A Gold Star for Zog by Julia Donaldson

School starts for me tomorrow, which means that teachers in my neck of the woods are fully stocked on gold stars. We are ready to hand those puppies out! I would like to suggest A Gold Star for Zog as the perfect First Day of School read for dragon-loving little people and the cool teachers who seek their admiration. Imagine reading this book at the end of the First Day and then sending every kid in your class home with a gold star. You are now the Best Teacher Ever. It’s simple folks, honest.

On Day 2, each of them could write about something they’re good at, something that is “gold star worthy.” They could make a whole list of things. You could take pictures of their proud smiling faces! Can you say bulletin board for Curriculum Night? Done and done.

It is probably impossible not to feel cheery when you read a picture book created by this dream team. Julia Donaldson’s clever rhymes and Axel Sheffler’s super bright, cute-as-all-get-out illustrations are about as kid-pleasing a combo as anything you could dream up. But this is no fluffy tale, without substance. In fact, there’s quite a lot to dig into here, in terms of big ideas. Zog is a total keener. He wants to win a golden star hard, really hard. But, flying leads to crashing, roaring gives him a sore throat, and fire-breathing means setting your own wing on fire. So you can imagine how capturing a princess goes. Good thing the princess is anything but ordinary. Princess Pearl isn’t afraid of dragons; she wants to help them. In fact, it is her dream to be a traveling doctor. Enter Sir Gadabout, an unconventional knight. Everyone and everything comes together in as neat and satisfying a finish as any of Donaldson’s rhymes.

It’s about being different, finding your groove, staying true to your dreams, and discovering that friendship matters more than being the best. All of that and rainbow bright dragons too? Give this book a gold star already.

Here’s a glimpse into Axel Scheffler’s creative life, and a video with Julia Donaldson talking about going beyond the Gruffalo.

A Gold Star for Zog is published by Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Scholastic.

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