Friday, April 11, 2014

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

They don't make children's books like this anymore. This starter chapter book with pictures is--in some ways--a relic from the 1940s, but it's also a great piece of and inspiration for imagination!

In its lack of depth, an almost total absence of greater meaning than whimsy, it really is an outdated example of children's literature. Children's authors nowadays have to tackle important social justice issues, intercultural experiences, or human rights issues to stay relevant. The only issue this book really tackles is slavery.

It does tackle slavery head on, though. A young boy travels to an imaginary world (on the advice of a wise old cat), where he hopes to free a baby dragon held captive by some selfish animals. Yes, literal animals.

The animals are using the baby dragon as a method of transport across a river. The boy, in being genuinely nice to all the animals he comes across, succeeds in distracting them long enough to get to the poor dragonet whom he hopes to free. Have you ever imagined seven tigers chewing bubblegum and looking in each others' mouths to see if the gum has turned green (which of course it never does)? Have you ever imagined a big gorilla with six monkeys clambering over him with magnifying glasses, trying to spot and eradicate fleas? These are the sort of whimsical, nearly hilarious images crafted by Gannett.

I feel like this book really has the perfect combination of whimsy, ease and fun, and plot twists, evolution and detail that make it a great one for young kids. The words and sentence construction are pretty simple, so young'uns can easily understand what's going on. And the book is long enough that, if you're reading it with a younger kid, you could take a few nights to finish it.

It's almost like a much younger version of Le petit prince.


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