Dragonbreath: No Such Thing As Ghosts, by Ursula Vernon (Dial 2011, middle grade, 208 (small) pages in a generous font with lots of pictures)
It's Halloween, and the young dragon, Danny (dressed as a vampire), and his iguana pal Wendell (dressed as a hydrogen atom) are about to hit the streets. But (horror!) Danny's dad says they're stopping to pick up a lizard classmate named Christina on their way to the candy-filled suburbs...and Christina (dressed as a salmonella bacterium) isn't Danny's favorite person--after all, she doesn't believe that dragons are real.
But when Big Eddy the Komodo Dragon forces Danny and co. to trick or treat at a spooky haunted house, Christina's rational mind is going to be forced to admit that impossible things can exist (poor Wendell had to admit this ages ago, when confronted with sentient potato salad, bat monsters, etc). Trapped by locked doors in the haunted house, Christina is about to face her worst nightmare--a Clown Ghost!!!!! Fortunately, Wendell's mother insisted that he bring a flashlight...
It's all very spooky and entertaining, and boy, was it a pleasure to bring it home and watch my picky readers devour it! It's more text heavy than others in the series--fewer graphic novel-esque scenes, but that just means there's more reading to be done, which is fine with me, and it's slightly less surreal, and more a predictable story, than others in the series (no one can predict, for instance, a sentient potato salad, my favorite character from book 3), but I don't think that's a negative thing--if anything, it broadens the book's appeal.
In short, it's a most satisfactory addition to my beloved Dragonbreath series.
My own favorite part was Christina's logical, intelligent mind--through Christina, the young reader is introduced, for instance, to the principle of Occam's Razor. She is no mere sidekick to Danny and Wendell, but a lead player in unravelling the mystery of the haunted house. Here's her reaction when they finally meet the ghost face to face:
"But your existence postulates the existence of some form of afterlife, so what does that entail? Clearly you can manifest visually and to a limited extent physically, but is your range constrained?" (page 184).
Yay for smart girl lizards!
Here are my thoughts on
Book 1: Dragonbreath
Book 2: Attack of the Ninja Frogs
Book 3: Curse of the Weir-Wiener
Book 4: Lair of the Bat Monster