Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Sunday, August 1, 2010


"Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
— G.K. Chesterton

The above quote got me thinking about dragons...
Dragons can be found in stories and art from many cultures:  there are Biblical dragons, dragons in Islamic and Orthodox traditions, Asian dragons and African dragons, as well as Medieval dragons.  Mostly, they are depicted as evil and scarey, sometimes fire-breathing, often miserly.  They usually have the ability to fly and they live in or near water.   Some of literature's famous dragons are:  "Smaug", Tolkien's last great dragon of Middle Earth; Andrew Lang's fairy tale dragons; Beowolf's "Grendel"; and "Custard" the dragon, found in poetry by Ogden Nash - to name a few.

An example of this type of dragon can be found in many myths and legends.  One hero who fought an especially evil dragon was St. George.  His story shows up in several different versions.  The real St. George was a Christian who lived in the 3rd Century.  You can read his story here.  There is a medieval version of this tale that has been captured in the beautiful picture book, ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, by Margaret Hodges, with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. (ages 7 and up).

Yet in children's literature, dragons aren't always represented as merciless and evil.  In fact, many are portrayed to be misunderstood, lonely creatures.  Another picture book that involves St. George is THE RELUCTANT DRAGON, (ages 8-12) by Kenneth Grahame (with beautiful illustrations by Michael Hague).  In this version of the tale, we meet a kindly dragon.

This friendly type of dragon is also portrayed in a fun series, THREE TALES OF MY FATHER'S DRAGON by Ruth Stiles Gannett, written in the 1940's. (ages 4-8).  A perfect way to introduce young children to chapter books!  Follow the adventures of Elmer Elevator (the narrator's father as a boy) as he runs away with an old alley cat to rescue a flying baby dragon on a faraway island.  Such an awesome adventure - reads like quirky epic tale for children!

My personal favorite story that involves a dragon is from THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, by C.S. Lewis. (ages 9-12)  Eustace Clarence Scrubb, the very unpleasant, bratty cousin of Edmund and Lucy, goes on a Narnian adventure with them.  As the story progresses, Eustace sneaks away and comes upon the lair of a dying dragon.  He steals from the dragon's pile of treasure and ends up falling asleep on it.  When he wakes up, he finds that he, himself has turned into a dragon.  He eventually makes his way back to his friends, convinces them that he is really Eustace and uses his skills as a dragon to help them.  Through this, he realizes he would rather be friendly and have friends, than be mean and lonely.  The best part is when Aslan comes and leads him to a healing pool.  With his sharp claws, Aslan helps Eustace painfully remove his scaly dragon skin, layer by layer.  Eustace becomes a changed person, on the outside as well as the inside.

illustration by Pauline Baynes

For the child who wants to know about all things dragon, there is Edith Nesbit's THE BOOK OF DRAGONS, which contains eight short stories about...dragons.  There is also HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, the first of a series of 8 books by Cressida Cowell about dragons. Both books are for ages 8-12.

1 comment:

  1. I love dragon stories :o) And I as so excited to see the "My Father's Dragon" books made your list! I read them when I was in first grade (well, to be more accurate my teacher read them to our class) but I loved them, enough so that they came to California with my other well loved children's books (Also included in the list were my Narnia books of which "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is a favorite, partly due to the Eustace and the Dragon bit :o)