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Elmer and the Dragon Children's Book Review

Updated on February 15, 2010

You'll be tickled by canary feathers!

This is a tale about a young boy and a baby dragon, the two main character from a previous story, My Father's Dragon, by Newberry Honor winner Ruth Stiles Gannett.

In Elmer and the dragon, the yellow and black-striped dragon attempts to fly Elmer, his savior from the previous book, back home.  However, a storm slows the two likeable characters, that they find themselves first on a sandbar and then on Feather Island, the land where escaped canaries go to live.  On this island is the great sadness of curiosity unresolved.  For, you see, the king is desperately sad due to his secret, a secret that his subjects, the other canaries, are terribly curious about.

With the arrival of Elmer and the baby dragon, one of the canaries, Flute (the consummate name for a bird in a children's book, no?), proves to be a canary who'd escaped from Elmer's mother, and so is an old friend.  Together, the three are able to wrest the secret from the king of the canaries, and make all right, with a couple of added bonuses.

The story is captivating in its premise of the 'plague of curiosity'  and the wanderings of our two main characters.  As well, like many stories, not only are there fictive creatures such as dragons, but also other talking animals, anthropomorphized yet portrayed much in ways which they might truly think and behave had they a riper sentience.

While this story is as timeless and identifiable to a child of the late 20th or early 21st centuries, it also harkens back to a time between the late Victorian Era and that great Death of Innocence, World War I (yet it was actually written after the Second World War).  In fact, it may remind one of The Little Prince as it holds much of the same flair and color that Antoine de Saint Exupéry offered to the world in his beloved tale.

The artwork, too, will titilate.  Fun, modest, gloriously dated artwork, it was made by the author's mother-in-law, Ruth Chrisman Gannett. The art is simple enough to remind of the days when the world seemed more black, white and certain.  In fact, both characters easily symbolize this age-old dichotomy.  the baby dragon is alternately striped black and white, while Elmer Elevator (a most curious name), wears a sweater to match his dragon friend's skin.  Maybe considered a bit dull by today's standards of flamboyant colors and high-gloss illustrations there is exceptional creativity put here and there, like a well-contrived splatter by Jackson Pollock.

What this story is at heart is the love of a fine friendship of two relatively new friends, which will endear it to mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons everywhere.

If you like Elmer and the Dragon, you may also enjoy the stories My Father's Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland, also by Ruth Stiles Gannett.


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