Book #4: My Father’s Dragon

Seems like we should not have had such a long delay in reviewing for such a short book, but there it is – no good excuses – just haven’t gotten around to posting lately.  But here it is!

From the beginning, this book struck me more as a story than a novel.  Telling the story of “my father”  and his boyhood adventures, the narrative has the comforting feel of a tale that is being made up on the spot for the entertainment of a fidgety or tired child who is eager to believe impossible things.

The story begins with a casual conversation with a cat who ends up encouraging young Elmer to run away to a faraway island and set a dragon free from animals who are holding it captive for their own selfish uses.  The story trots along very matter of factly.  Elmer, though no doubt a good son overall, is upset with his mother for being rude to the cat, so he has no qualms about running away.  The cat helps him prepare:

“Everything had to be kept very secret, so when they found or bought anything to take on the trip, they hid it behind a rock in the park.  The night before my father sailed he borrowed his father’s knapsack and he and the cat packed everything very carefully.  He took chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a package of rubber bands, black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush and a tube of tooth paste, 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 my father while he was on the ship.  He couldn’t live on mice, so he took twenty-five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and six apples, because that’s all the apples he could find in the pantry.”

And really, what else might one need on such a trip?  Clearly, each of these things should prove useful at some time or other.  And they do indeed come in handy.  Once Elmer reaches the island of Tangerina, he finds plenty of – surprise – tangerines to eat, so that’s okay.  With each chapter, he encounters into a cranky animal that is more than ready to eat him, but his well-packed knapsack saves him from each and every one of them.  Now that’s good packing!

After getting past the hungry animals, he finds the dragon, who is thrilled to be rescued, and they fly off – evidently to more adventures, since there are two sequels, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland.

All in all, a diverting quick story for an experienced reader, and a fun adventure with an enterprising kid that should entertain younger readers.

And now, a word from Katie:

Hello again.  Its taken me a while to get to writing this and trust me its not because My Father’s Dragon is a long book.  I’ve been busy with track, school, and babysitting six or seven little kids at a time ( which is scary because somehow it always ends up with me on the floor and them standing victoriously over me).  But enough chit-chat let’s get down to business.

My Father’s Dragon is a great book that I think would be good for a bed time story over a period of time.  If the child you want to read it to is always running around or trying to turn the page then by the time you get them settled down you could have read the whole book.  It only took me an hour and a half to finish the whole book which was convenient because that is the amount of time it took my mom to make dinner (even though she said it would only take half an hour).  Now to the characters of the story.

Elmer: Elmer is a little boy with a kind heart and a lot of bravery.  He shows us these characteristics through his many challenges through this whole book.  He also shows he can tell a good lie, but I think we can let him of the hook for that particular one with the tigers since his only other option was being eaten.

Old she cat:  The old alley cat used to be a big adventurer, but then age caught up to her and had to stop her adventures.  Elmer tried to be nice to her even when his mom was mean to her and tried to kick the she cat out.  That didn’t stop Elmer from visiting her and she is the one who started him out on his adventure.  She told him all the specific things to put in his bag-chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a package of rubber bands, black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush and a tube of tooth paste, 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 while he was on the ship, all normal and useful stuff.

Elmer’s mom:  Elmer’s mom isn’t a very important character, but she does show that she has no feelings towards cats.  Also it’s her meanness toward the cat that makes Elmer think its ok to leave.

So that is that and  now I should start my The Graveyards Book review.                                            The End

Particulars

Number of pages: 87

Chapters:  10

Date of publication:  1948

Story time and setting: “When my father was a little boy”

First line:  “One cold rainy day when my father was a little boy, he met an old alley cat on his street.”

Main characters:  Elmer Elevator, a cat, a dragon and a number of easily tricked wild animals

Amazon.com Best Sellers rank: 42,587 (less popular than many on the list, but pretty respectable for a very short book that’s more than 60 years old)

Reading age level:  7 and up

Emotional/Maturity level: This makes for a good introduction to chapter books for younger kids, possibly as young as 4, if they are experienced listeners.  The story is easy to follow and has enough fun action to engage young kids.

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