Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fumbling Through Fantasy: My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (1948)

In My Father's Dragon, the narrator's father, Elmer Elevator, has an adventure (as a child) going to rescue a dragon from Wild Island. In short chapters, the narrator explains how her father packs for the trip, finds the island, outsmarts the animal natives, and eventually liberates his dragon.

This is a children's book that is probably best appreciated by young children. As an adult, I had too many grown-up questions (such as, why must there be a narrator? why couldn't Elmer just tell the story?) that stood in my way of appreciating the story for what it was. I did like the different methods Elmer used to keep the animals from attacking him, and I appreciated how the fantasy elements have kept the book feeling fresh for 68 years; I just didn't feel any particular emotional connection to the story or its main character.

My Father's Dragon would make an excellent read-aloud for a preschooler who is interested in hearing longer stories. The chapters are short enough to read at bedtime, and there are plenty of engaging illustrations to help provide context and keep young minds focused on the story. Dragons are also a perennially popular topic among kids of all ages, and there are never enough dragon books, so it's wonderful that this book continues to hold up so well generation after generation. Beginning readers could also read this story independently, but because of the conceit that the events of the book happen to the narrator's father, it would be more effective as a read-aloud, because it gives kids the idea that maybe they, too, could be related to Elmer Elevator.

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