Nickerbacher, The Funniest Dragon
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More About This Title Nickerbacher, The Funniest Dragon


A dragon named Nickerbacher guards a princess because his papa told him to. However, he practices his jokes on Princess Gwendolyn, as he yearns to be a stand-up comedian. The young dragon gets up the nerve to tell his papa about his dream and is sternly reminded of his dragonly duty. Later that day, Prince Happenstance arrives for the princess and repeatedly challenges the dragon to fight. The opponents manage to find common ground and Nickerbacher leaves for the big city to pursue his dream.Nickerbacher is the only dragon who wants to make people laugh. And in the process, he encourages the prince (and kids) to be themselves and follow their dreams.


Terry John Barto is a director and choreographer of 200+ regional theater productions, industrials, television, and cruise ship shows throughout the United States and abroad. As creative director for Wings of Dreams Productions, he honed diverse ideas into compelling stories, wrote screenplays for animation features, and inspired a team of artists to develop dolls and action figures.

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



In Barto (Gollywood, Here I Come!, 2014) and Sponaugle’s children’s picture book, a young dragon slays his captive princess, her prince and finally his own disapproving father—with laughter.

Young readers will identify with the sad-eyed main character from the start—a dragon named Nickerbacher who’s guarding an imprisoned princess “because his papa told him to.” As he does so, however, he practices his jokes on her, as he yearns to be a stand-up comedian. Most of them involve clever wordplay: “Why did it take me forever to cross the road?…Because I’m always a-draggin.” Just as Gwendolyn tells him that he must pursue what gives him pleasure, the authors show woodland animals fleeing in terror as Papa Dragon approaches. The young dragon tells his father about his dream and is sternly reminded of his dragonly duty. That afternoon, Prince Happenstance arrives to rescue the princess and repeatedly challenges Nickerbacher to fight after the dragon calls him “Prince Fancypants.” Instead, Nickerbacher torches some nearby trees. Soon, Happenstance admits his squelched desire to be a baseball player, and the opponents realize their common ground. Later, in the city, Nickerbacher finds the courage to step onstage for his first comedy act. It will be hard for readers not to laugh along as they see the audience’s delighted, upturned faces. Later, after receiving his father’s approval, the dragon tells one last joke: “You know what happened to the dragon whose dream came true?.He lived happily ever after.” The text of this book is full of body language and voice cues and, as a result, often begs to be read aloud, such as when the princess tells Nickerbacher, “You’d make a great comedian.” “Nickerbacher looked over his shoulder. ‘Don’t let my papa hear that.’ ” The book’s expressive, jewel-toned illustrations also pack an emotional punch. Overall, this dramatic story about a dragon stand-up comedian will likely entertain readers of all ages.

A well-illustrated dragon tale that may help bridge the gap between young and old readers.