When my sister and I were small, we loved nightly bedtime stories with Daddy. He spent many a night on books like The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, or others from his own childhood favorites. One wonderful year, he pulled out My Father’s Dragon and its two sequels, written by Ruth Stiles Gannet between 1948 and 1951. We loved the stories of Elmer and the baby dragon, and while some parts are cheesier than I remembered them being, I love them still. Here’s a peek at three books you should definitely consider for the small child in your life (or in yourself!):
MY FATHER’S DRAGON
“As my father and the dragon passed over the Ocean Rocks they heard a tiny excited voice scream, ‘Bum cack Bum cack! We dreed our nagon! I mean, we need our dragon!’”
Years later, my sister and I still quote the flustered mouse that screamed our favorite line. “Bum cack!” we teasingly call, whenever we don’t want the other to leave. We couldn’t forget those words any more than we could forget Elmer Elevator (the title “father” in his childhood) and his adventure to rescue a baby dragon from the island where cruel animals had tied him up, forcing him to fly them across the river. It’s a cute, silly story about a resourceful little boy, some fierce but easily-distracted animals, and one of the most adorable little dragons you could ever meet.
A takeaway: Always be well-prepared for anything when you travel, and don’t forget to be kind to stray cats.
ELMER AND THE DRAGON
“‘Does he eat canaries?’
‘I should say not!’ snorted the dragon. ‘Only fruits and vegetables and lollipops.’”
The abovementioned vegetables look largely like tangerine peels, skunk cabbages, and marsh ferns; and the young dragon looks largely like the product of a child’s imagination. He has blue and yellow stripes, gold wings, and a red horn and hooves. This second adventure picks up right where the first leaves off, relating what happens when Elmer and the dragon stop at an island of freed canaries on their way home. The plot has more to do with the birds than the dragon, but it’s still pretty cute.
A takeaway: They say curiosity killed the cat, but in reality, it killed ten generation of canaries.
THE DRAGONS OF BLUELAND
“‘Boris! Is that your name?’
‘Yes,’ said Boris uncomfortably. ‘I was embarrassed to tell you before.’
‘It’s no worse than Elmer,’ said Elmer.
‘I suppose not, and it’s certainly not so bad as some in my family. I might as well tell you the rest. My sisters are Ingeborg, Eustacia, Gertrude, Bertha, Mildred and Hildegarde. And my brothers are Emil, Horatio, Conrad, Jerome, Wilhelm and Dagobert. Can you imagine!’”
At last, we find out more about the dragon! What does his family look like, where do they live, and what happens when humans discover them? We finally find out the answers to these questions, along with his name. Though the final book is just as short and simple as the first two, it always seemed more intense to me in terms of how scary the humans are—not only must Boris the dragon avoid being seen by people such as guards or an armed farmer, he and Elmer must somehow save the rest of the dragons before they get locked up and sent to zoos. The worst thing about the book: it ends with no proof that the boy and dragon will ever get to see each other again. If I were Elmer, I would miss my dragon buddy forever!
A takeaway: Dragons apparently don’t breathe fire, but they exercise daily and are quite frightening when they blow on horns and whistles in unison.