Dragons get a bad rap. Sure, they're big and scaly and they might breathe fire, but some just want to bake.

In "Dough Knights and Dragons," author Dee Leone, a former Kern County resident, tells the story of a knight and a dragon who forge a friendship thanks to a shared love of baking. But, according to the law of the land, they must duel.

Leone will be at Barnes & Noble on Saturday morning, where she will read from two of her books, "Dough Knights and Dragons" and "Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night." At the event, kids can get their books signed by Leone and make crafts relating to the titles.

In the first story, the unlikely friends have to "cook up a plan" to get out of the duel, Leone wrote in an email to The Californian.

"This tale encourages peaceful, creative problem solving (especially in the face of conflict) and teaches children the value of befriending those who are different from them," Leone wrote. "I hope it will ignite children's appetite for reading and set their imaginations on fire."

The book's illustrations help tell the story, with plenty of pictures of delectable desserts.

"The artwork by George Ermos is incredibly detailed, colorful and very atmospheric," Leone wrote. "For example, the arena scene with lightning and the cave illustration where the dragon and knight are cooking draw the reader into a different time and place."

In "Nature's Lullaby Fills the Night," Leone imagines how animal parents tuck their children into bed for the night.

"In the book, night falls and the world sings a lullaby," Leone wrote. "From moths fluttering their powdery wings to willows shushing, shushing in the breeze, tender nature scenes sweep across land, sea and sky to soothe and calm little ones."

The idea for this book came from Leone's travels, where she took pictures — another passion of hers — of swans in Slovenia, dolphins in New Zealand and more. Leone said the illustrations for "Nature's Lullaby," created by Bali Engel, are "breathtakingly beautiful and simply magical." She especially loves the color palette.

The author, who now lives in the San Diego area, has written three picture books and 20 reproducible books for the educational market, as well as 100-plus poems, plays, puzzles and activities for children's magazines. All of them were traditionally published, Leone said. In addition to "Dough Knights" and "Nature's Lullaby" published by Sterling Children's Books, Leone also wrote "Bizz and Buzz Make Honey Buns," published by Penguin.

"Though it's tough and time-consuming to break into the traditional publishing market, seeing a book in print and on bookshelves makes it worth all the effort," she wrote.

Leone was an elementary school teacher before becoming a writer. She taught until her first child was born but wanted to stay connected to education, so she started creating various materials teachers could use in the classroom.

"Dough Knights" and "Nature's Lullaby" have only been out within the last few months, but Leone is already busy on new projects, like fiction and nonfiction picture books, poems and a screenplay. When she's not writing, Leone enjoys visiting bookstores and classrooms.

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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