Reading on Rainy Days: My Father’s Dragon

Our impromptu spring break getaway didn’t exactly turn out as hoped—weatherwise, that is. We were told there would be great views of the mountains from the cabin we had rented, but we never saw them. It was all rain and drizzle and fog. But whenever I start to gripe about the weather, I like to remind myself that it’s a good thing people can’t control the weather. Can you imagine what a mess that would be? It’s better to just deal with what you get. So we just sat around the fireplace for 4 days, reading and watching a lot of movies. It was different from what we had planned, but no less fun.

Kid #3’s interest is starting to expand beyond dinosaurs, and for his birthday, he got Ruth Stiles Gannett’s Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon. The first story, My Father’s Dragon, was a Newbery Honor Book in 1949, and the trilogy was concluded in 1951. There is always the possibility that an older children’s book doesn’t stand the test of time, but this one definitely does. I am so happy that I threw this book into our book bag at the last minute, because it turned out to be a perfect read-out-loud book. We read all 242 pages in just 2 days, which is quite something when you consider that Kid #3 rarely sits still for more than 5 minutes at a time.

As the name suggests, this book includes three stories: in the first one, Elmer Elevator (“my father”) goes to rescue a baby dragon that is being kept on Wild Island; in the second one, Elmer and the dragon try to get home; and in the third one, the two have to rescue the dragon’s family. In my opinion, the first story is the strongest one, but my kids disagreed. They liked all three, and they liked that there were “no sad parts.” I hadn’t considered that aspect before Kid #2 mentioned it, but it’s true. You often have a dead mother, a mean sibling, or an evil spirit in children’s stories, but there is none of it here. That doesn’t mean that Elmer and the dragon don’t have to overcome some obstacles, but they come mainly in the form of “scary” animals like lions, alligators, and gorillas, all of whom are appeased by Elmer’s ingenious ways of distracting them. There is a big storm that blows the baby dragon off course in the second story, and there are the captors of the dragon family in the third story. They are just bad enough to add tension to the stories.

The stories are quite witty—entertaining for both children and adults. Kid #3 laughed out loud several times at the humor in the stories, beginning with Elmer’s last name, Elevator, and the fact that he eats so many tangerines while he’s on the Island of Tangerina. Kid #2 enjoyed the whimsical drawings; there are several per chapter, and they perfectly accompany the story. Her favorite drawing was the one of the monkeys using magnifying glasses to find the fleas on the gorilla (and the one of the magnified flea!). Even Kid #1, who’s almost too old for these stories, cracked a smile a few times.

I thought it was rather clever that the first book was written from the perspective of Elmer’s child, making it sound as if the story really happened. I wish the second and third stories had kept up that point of view, but that didn’t make much of a difference to our overall enjoyment of the entire book. Perhaps the best endorsement of the book came when we were back home and I heard the kids pretending to be on a mission to rescue a baby dragon when they were playing in the backyard.

So this one’s a winner and, in my opinion, definitely a children’s classic. So, I am linking up with the Classic Children’s Literature Event, that is hosted this month by Simpler Pastimes. It’s her fifth year of doing this event, so you’ll find plenty of reviews and suggestions on her blog.

 

 

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15 comments

  1. I’ve never read these, but they sound absolutely delightful! I really should look to see if the library has these, as I currently have a bit of a “thing” for dragons. 🙂

    I love that your children are playing games inspired by the series–that was something my brother and I often did with our favorites growing up.

  2. This is a most welcome post, as my son and I are venturing into chapter books. So far we’ve read the first Flat Stanley and the first two Magic Tree House books (which have been big hits.) I want to be sure to expose him to lots of different books, though, so I’ll bring this one home from the library and see how he likes it.

  3. I read My Father’s Dragon to my son several years ago now, but we only ever read the first one. I don’t think I even realized there were two more! I’m glad your kids ended up loving it so much. It helps to have good stories on rainy vacations. 🙂
    Your story reminds me of a surprise “hit” I read around the campfire one summer. I can’t even remember the name of the book – it was just one we grabbed from the library on a whim before heading out – and all three kids loved it. It was about a boy who had a talent for shaping slices of cheese into the shapes of the American states (I think!) with his teeth. Sometimes they will still try to make something out of their cheese before they eat it. It’s funny the things that stick with them.

  4. I’m sorry your vacation was rainy, but it sounds like you guys made the best of it. I’ve never read Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon, but it sounds ideal for my youngest. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • My middle child, who is about the same age as your youngest, has already started rereading this book independently. At night, she sometimes doesn’t have the patience for books with longer chapters, but this one is perfect in that respect.

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