Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book Review: My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (Father's Dragon #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Perfect transition book that is funny to boot
Cons: Illustrations are a tad dated
The Bottom Line:
And fun adventure story
Perfect transition

"Bum Cack! Bum Cack!  We Dreed our Nagon!"

I was in first grade when I was first introduced to this Newberry Honor book starring Elmer Elevator. I remember the entire class being hooked on his adventures in My Father's Dragon. And the story is just as fun now as it was then.

One night, Elmer, usually referred to as "My Father" since he is the narrator's dad, rescues a stray cat. The two soon become friends, and the cat tells him of a baby dragon that was captured and enslaved by the residents of Wild Island. Elmer immediately begins to plan a rescue attempt, even though no one has ever left Wild Island alive. Armed only with gum, lollipops, magnifying glasses, hair ribbons, a toothbrush, and other such items, he sets out. But will this be enough to face lions, tigers, a rhinoceros, gorillas, crocodiles, and a mouse with a speech problem?

This book is targeted at the 4 to 8 year old range, and it's perfect for them. It's just under 70 pages long. Each of the 10 chapters are around 5 or 6 pages, so there are plenty of places to break if you don't want to read the story straight through. The book works well as a read aloud, obviously, since that's how I first heard it. But it could also work for beginning readers ready to transition from easy readers to chapter books. Most of the vocabulary is relatively simple, the exception being some of the animals and the neighboring island of Tangerina.

The book was illustrated by the author's step mother. Each two page spread features a picture of some size, some small and some quite large. They are black and white, beautifully detailed, and add charm to the funny events of the book.

And don't let anyone steer you wrong, this book is very funny. Of course, how can it help but be when you have a boy facing a lion with a hairbrush. Even as an adult, I love the humor and wild adventures that Elmer has. They are guaranteed to make you smile, and a laugh or two along the way wouldn't surprise me.

Honestly, I am surprised when I reread this as an adult just how short and simple the book really is. I think of it as being much longer and more complicated then it really is. Which means it is perfect for capturing the imagination of its target audience.

The book was originally written in 1948. The story itself is not dated at all and those 60 years won't mean a thing to today's kids. The drawings do look a little dated in places, but most kids won't notice.

It's always nice when a nostalgic part of your childhood is as much fun as you remember it being. That's certainly the case with My Father's Dragon. Hopefully this book will be around for generations of kids to enjoy for decades to come.

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