Monday, January 20, 2014

My Father's Dragon series, by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Soooo . . .  funny - (ha ha) - story about these books. Once upon a time I picked up a copy of My Father's Dragon (at Goodwill or someplace) and read the first two pages of it. If you've read the book then you know that in the opening chapter of the story the mother is pronounced "rude" and mean. Well. I can't say I was very much interested in reading the book beyond that, as I'd really like to not read books to my kids that portray my position as being so horrible. I took the book back to Goodwill (or wherever) determined to leave this one unread. I patted myself on the back and moved along.

Then, two years ago, I almost burned down our house and Annette was so very kind and so very gracious in sending me a few books to read while we were living in temporary housing. One of the books she sent was, (you guessed it!), My Father's Dragon. Admittedly I was, like, "OOOOOhhhhh nooooo!!!" because a book received as a gift simply must be read (most of the time). My second thought was, "Weeellll, if Annette likes it then maybe it's not so bad and I dismissed it too quickly." This debate raged in my brain as I stuck the book up on a shelf. (I am nothing if not honest in this review, ok?) Then Stephanie said she read it to her kids and I questioned myself again. Lastly, my friend M was RAVING (and I do mean raving) about this book saying it was one that I absolutely HAD to read to my children in order for them to be considered literate human beings. Well. What's a body to do but let the book sit on the shelf a few more months while you consider what a perfectly rotten mother you are for not reading them this book? Options are limited.

As it turns out though, I think it sat on the shelf for a decent period of time. By the time I did manage to rectify the situation and save my children's reading souls alive, my oldest son was seven and my second was four and that is really quite the perfect ages to read this book aloud. That is my long-winded way of saying, "THANKS, ANNETTE, FOR THIS MARVELOUS READ!" Ahem.

We read My Father's Dragon in two sittings because it had to be done. Just like everyone said we would, we all enjoyed it. Actually, I was rather surprised by my four year old's reaction to it. He really got into the tale and laughed quite a bit, always asking that we not read ahead without him. He loved the main character of Elmer, a young boy in search of an imaginary place called Wild Island. Elmer goes off to find a baby dragon which is being held captive by the other animals on the island. In order to accomplish his mission he brings with him some chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a package of rubber bands, black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, six magnifying glasses, a very sharp jackknife, a comb and a hairbrush, seven hair ribbons of different colors, an empty grain bag with a label saying "Cranberry", some clean clothes, and enough food to last him on his journey to said island. Using these various items he manages to trick and escape from a mouse, some wild boards, a couple of gorillas, and a bunch of crocodiles. He finds the baby dragon and the dragon is rescued. All's well that ends well, as they say.

The story is told in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, the chapters are short, and the characters delightful. Gannett's sense of humor connects well with young children making for an all around delightful read (excepting the part about the mother, of course). We liked it so much that we had to pick up a copy of the second and third books in the series and read them immediately.

Sometimes sequels disappoint but not so with Elmer and the Dragon. Elmer and his rescued baby dragon are flying back to Elmer's home in Nevergreen City. The dragon, being just a babe, gets a little tired by the long flight and the two make an emergency landing near an island in the middle of the ocean. While there they meet a flock of canaries who are oh so very curious and who are guarding a mysterious treasure on their shores. What is the treasure? Well, I cannot tell you that. Does Elmer make it home? I will tell you that, not only does he make it home, but his mother is very welcoming and loving upon his arrival. (Redeemed!)

Lastly, we read The Dragons of Blueland. In this book, the dragon - whose name is Boris, by the way - is ready to return to the family he lost before being captured and held on Wild Island. He makes it to Blueland where his family lives only to discover that they are being held captive in a cave by some men who just discovered the dragons' existence. Boris wants to save his family but doesn't quite know how to do so all by himself. Boris does know just who can help him and so he returns to Nevergreen City to pick up Elmer and the two friends save the day (again)!

All of the stories were delightfully quirky and cute. If you haven't read the series yet, I - *coughcough* - rather recommend them. (As Rachel Lynde says, "You're never safe from surprises until you're dead!" That's a fact.)

My family's many thanks to the many people who worked to make this read possible. (Most especially we thank Annette, who forced our reading hand!)

We can now hold our heads up high in society's reading circles once again. (Right?)


Tonia said...

I have very fond memories of that series - it was our first read aloud chapter book. Later on I bought my daughter her own hardcover copy. Glad you didn't give up on it! ;-)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I'm so glad you overcame your prejudice! ;-). These are favorites here, and it will be time to re-read them with the DLM before long.

Shonya said...

Chuckle. I've never heard of them before this-my poor children, apparently. Must rectify the situation at once! :) Sounds like a fun break from some of the things I've been reading!

RAnn said...

I loved these as a kid (at least I think these were the books--the boy in the striped shirt, the dragon, the Canary Island and did they mention skunk-cabbage?). It's funny though, most books I loved as a kid, I loved reading to my kids, but I saw these in a bookstore, grabbed them excitedly and started to peruse them. I couldn't see what I ever saw in them and didn't buy them.

Beth said...

This series has a special place in my heart since it was the first book (we have all three in one) that my son, who didn't care for reading, took the book to his room and re-read it after I had finished reading it aloud to him.

Annette Whipple said...

Well, I am so glad I forced your hand by gifting the first one to you.

Unfortunately, we have not come across book 2 yet. :( So we don't know that tale...and I don't want to skip ahead. :)

Interestingly enough, I volunteered in M's enrichment class (1.5 hours daily for language arts) last week, and this was the read aloud. They had just finished book one and were about to go on to book two in the next sitting.

Stephanie Kay said...

With a ringing endorsement like that I MUST put this book on our to read list. :)

Bluerose said...

I'd never heard of these! I'm next in line for all three of them at my library now, though!(3 books in 1 edition)Should I mention it's for the e-books? ;)

Stephanie said...

So glad you loved them! : ) I (like Amy) was just thinking as I read your post that I may need to pull those out in the near future to read with the boy in our place as well. : )

Mark Baker said...

You know, I didn't even remember that about the mother. How funny.

I was introduced to the first book in elementary school by a teacher reading it aloud to us. I loved it. I don't think the other two are quite as good since the first one is just so creative.

I'm glad you gave the series a try and liked it.

Barbara H. said...

Amusing review. :-) I had never heard of them before. I've been skipping past book reviews for young children for years since we didn't have any in the family, but now that a grandchild is due later this year, I need to start paying attention to them. :-)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

(I do hope you'll link this up on this month's RAT!)

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