Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs (Dial Books/Penguin, lower middle grade on up, Feburary 4th, 2010, 205 pp) by Ursula Veron.
When I was up in Boston for the American Library Association meeting last week, this was one of the ARCS I was happiest to get, because I knew how very very happy it would make my children (they love Dragonbreath). And indeed, five minutes after I got home, my nine year-old had cracked the spine.
Attack of the Ninja Frogs brings back Danny Dragonbreath himself, still as imaginative and enthusiastic as any young dragon ever was. When Suki, a Japanese exchange student, is beset by Ninja Frogs, Danny and Wendell, his geeky iguana pal (who's fallen hard for Suki) travel with her to mythical Japan to find out what's going on. Danny thinks it's the greatest thing ever to be in the thick of real Ninja action, Wendell's worried about Suki, and as for Suki herself--she just wants to be a comic-book reading veterinarian, preferably a veterinarian who isn't being stalked by Ninjas...
The story is great fun, and the smart, snappy dialogue made me grin for a good part of the book. But what I loved most of all is the range of expressions that Vernon gives to her little reptiles and amphibians. My son (who's trying his hand at cartooning) and I poured over all the panels that showed Danny, marvelling at how a few subtle changes from picture to picture can bring about such great characterization.
Both Dragonbreath books are absolutely, utterly perfect for the kid who is still daunted by long chapter books. Word heavy pages (with large type) are interspersed with graphic heavy comic-style panels, making the books very friendly to the uncertain reader.
Here's another review, from fellow Dragonbreath fan Doret at TheHappyNappyBookseller.